My STEAM project is on the hormone oxytocin. My objective is to relate the hormone to its involvement in the stages of birth and lactation through contractions, along with its strong release during sexual arousal. For my visual, I created a poster displaying how the hormone is produced in the brain. I then describe how and when it is made in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland. 

Oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone,” is a natural endocrine produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland (Carmichael 5). Its main function is to facilitate childbirth and much like endorphins or serotonin, it promotes positive feeling. Oxytocin is one of the few hormones with a positive feedback loop. This means that its release leads to actions that stimulate the pituitary gland to produce a surplus of it. This is displayed at the bottom of my poster by the diagram of a pregnant woman. Most hormones have negative feedback loops after they are released, as the body goes on to make less of it after it has its effect on the body. Oxytocin stimulates the muscles of the uterus to contract, and boosts the production of prostaglandins, which also increase uterine contractions (Moberg 201) Women whose labor is slow to proceed are sometimes given oxytocin to speed the process. Once the baby is born, oxytocin helps to move milk from the ducts in the breast to the nipple. The hormone also fosters a bond between mom and baby. Oxytocin affects aspects of human behavior related to the reproductive system, specifically in females.

During the initial stages of child labor, when a fetus’s body pushes against the cervix, the nerve impulses from this stimulation travel to the brain and stimulate the pituitary gland to release oxytocin into the bloodstream. This oxytocin travels into the uterus and stimulates contractions (Moberg 202-203). This results in uterine contractions, causing the pituitary gland to release more oxytocin. Ultimately resulting in an increase in both the intensity and frequency of contractions. Oxytocin also induces the production of prostaglandins, or a group of lipids with hormone-like actions. Prostaglandins hurry labor along and increase the contractions furthermore. This enables the mother to carry out vaginal delivery completely.

Once a baby is born, oxytocin promotes lactation by causing more contractions, but of the myoepithelial cells in the alveolar ducts of their mother’s breasts. These contractions move milk through the breast tissue. When a baby sucks a breast, oxytocin secretion causes the milk to release so the child can feed. As long as the baby keeps sucking, the pituitary gland continues releasing oxytocin. Once the infant stops breastfeeding, the release of oxytocin stops until it is time to feed the baby again. 

Oxytocin is clearly involved in human reproduction, but also plays an important role in sexual arousal response and conception. Sexual intimacy, specifically the female orgasm is a major instance where the hormone is most secreted. Women need a vast amount of oxytocin to orgasm, so at peak sexual arousal, a woman’s oxytocin levels become extreme (LeWine 8). Engaging in sex with a romantic partner can help the two feel closer or more connected. Sex improves one’s mood and makes one feel fulfilled, leaving them positive through the hormone’s positive feedback loop. 

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  1. Mateya’s STEAM project was focused on the hormone oxytocin. Mateya described how oxytocin works during lactation, childbirth, and sexual arousal. Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone because it is what creates a bond between a mother and child as well as two partners and whenever oxytocin is released there will be a happy content feeling that follows. Anatomically, oxytocin is one of the few hormones that has a positive feedback loop. This positive feedback loop means that its release will lead to the pituitary gland producing a lot more of it and so on. During childbirth, when a fetus’s head pushes against the cervix it will cause nerve signals to travel to the brain and the pituitary gland will then release oxytocin in the bloodstream and this oxytocin will cause the uterus to contract. This will be what continually enhances contractions and will cause one to give birth. Oxytocin is also a powerful hormone for lactation and sex. During both, it is what creates a bond between a baby and mother and two partners as well as what causes lactation and intercourse to work properly. When a baby is suckling oxytocin secretion causes milk to be released so the baby can feed and this continues every time a baby breastfeeds. All in all, Mateya focused on the function and importance of the hormone oxytocin. The poster Mateya made shows how oxytocin is made and where and when it functions. Through a diagram and labels, the making of oxytocin in the pituitary gland is demonstrated clearly.

    Sarah Kivioja

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