Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, is a hormone that controls keys elements of the reproductive system, from sex drive and orgasms to childbirth and lactation, as well as other aspects of human interaction. In menopause, oxytocin deficiency may be related to vaginal dryness and a lower sex drive.
Keep reading for more information about oxytocin, how its deficiency can affect you during menopause, and what you can do about it.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland. Its secretion depends on the electrical activity of the neurons in the hypothalamus. Basically, it is secreted when those cells are excited.
Childbirth and breastfeeding
Oxytocin stimulates the uterine muscles to contract and help with childbirth, and it increases the production of prostaglandins, to help with the contraction even more. An oxytocin boost is sometimes given to help induce labour, strengthen contractions, and deliver the placenta quickly.
In breastfeeding, oxytocin promotes the movement of milk in the breast.
The hormone is also present in men, where its function is to regulate sperm production and movement, testosterone production by the testicles, orgasms, and the sleepiness felt after these are achieved.
Oxytocin plays an important role in human behaviour. It works as a chemical messenger for behaviours such as family relationships, trust, recognition, anxiety, and sexual arousal. That’s why it’s called the love hormone.
Some developmental disabilities, such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome – which are related to human behaviour and interaction – are characterised by the lack of oxytocin levels.
Oxytocin is also a powerful vasodilator, playing a vital role in delivering a proper blood flow to the vagina and sexual organs. It is essential to feel sexual desire and intense orgasms, which require pelvic and vaginal muscle contractions.
Signs and symptoms of oxytocin deficiency
There are a number of symptoms for oxytocin deficiency, including:
- Poor communication,
- An element of irritability and inability to feel affectionate,
- More anxieties and fears than normal,
- Sexual interactions are more mechanical and fulfil a basic need,
- Difficulty achieving orgasm,
- Bigger appetite for sugar-rich foods,
- Feeling little joy from life,
- Disturbed sleep, or
- Muscles aches.
What does it mean to be oxytocin deficient in menopause?
For women going through menopause, an oxytocin deficiency can get in the way of sexual pleasure, proper vaginal lubrication, and libido.
To achieve a pleasurable and efficient orgasm, the muscles in your vagina need to contract, and that is stimulated by the oxytocin. Same with the blood flow going to your genitals, lubrication in the vagina, and normal sex drive. After an orgasm, contrary to men, oxytocin makes women feel more alert and awake.
Treatment and diagnosis for oxytocin deficiency
It is possible to diagnose oxytocin deficiency using blood tests, however these are not widely available and are generally only used for research purposes. You may have identified a number of symptoms that point to an insufficiency, such as low libido and vaginal dryness.
As far as treatments go, it is always better to start with the most natural way. Oxytocin release can be stimulated by intimate human interaction, trust, and intimacy. Try to connect by touch, so don’t rule out foreplay just yet! Touching arousing erogenous zones are usually good ways to stimulate oxytocin release, but other less common areas should not be discarded, such as the collarbone area, behind the ears and neck, inner thighs, and lower back.
Massages will relax the body, increasing the blood flow and helping with arousal and sexual response. Maintaining regular sex habits and vaginal activity can also help to stimulate vaginal lubrication.
There are also food habits you can change in order to increase your libido, and even exercises, such as Kegels. The book “The Orgasmic Diet” highlights some of these.
Oxytocin can be administered in a number of ways, including orally, sublingually, through nasal sprays, local application to the clitoris, or as an injection.