Oxytocin is a peptide hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary that is associated with a wide range of effects on the brain and body. It is released in large amounts in females during childbirth, nipple stimulation, and breastfeeding, but is also released by males and females during skin to skin contact, sexual arousal, and orgasm.
Oxytocin has been considered the “love” hormone because it plays a crucial role in bonding, desire, social recognition, and trust. Studies have also shown that oxytocin is associated with our ability to mediate emotional experiences in close relationships and maintain healthy psychological boundaries. A study published in The Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that treating women who had sexual dysfunction with the hormone oxytocin improved their sexual response but also improved the sexual response of their untreated male partners. Some women administered oxytocin reported that they were better able to share their sexual desires and empathize with their partners during sex. This effect was therefore not a direct function of the oxytocin on the men, but rather was attributable to the improvement in the physical or verbal communication in their relationship.
Some associated benefits of oxytocin include mood improvement, anxiety reduction, improvements in mental and physical health, and reduction of stress-related hormone cortisol. Most recently, oxytocin is being tested as an anti-anxiety drug or adjuvant to certain mental illness treatments.