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New discoveries about Oxytocin: Not just a 'cuddle hormone'

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Did you know it’s possible to feel snuggly, calm, serene, maybe even blissful on your period? Unfortunately, mostly due to lack of education on the menstrual cycle and our stressful inflammatory lifestyles, it is not common - but it is possible.

Me, feeling calm, serene, and blissful on my period.

Oxytocin, often called the ‘cuddle hormone’ (which is now being dispelled, see below *) because it’s famously released during touch and social bonding, is also released by the body to stimulate contractions - in the uterus to expel the womb lining, or during birth to expel a baby, or in the breasts to aid breastfeeding, it even helps regulate digestion in the gut and may also have a part to play in the mobility of sperm.

Because it is released during menstruation, it means we *may* feel blissed out and content - if we have an optimum amount of inflammation (as opposed to too much which causes pain) feel safe, and are relatively content in the first place and don’t have a deficit of Oxytocin.

BUT, new research is showing that it’s not just a ‘happy hormone’:

*“Most current neuroscientific studies of oxytocin indicate that oxytocin doesn’t just always make people happier or more pro-social or willing to bond. Rather, oxytocin seems to act like a volume dial, turning up and amplifying brain activity related to whatever someone is already experiencing. That’s essentially what a lot of different recent studies are converging on for oxytocin.”*

Which unfortunately means that if you were or are feeling anxious, apathetic, sad, jealous, or any other typically ‘negative’ emotions, just before or during your period, it’s likely to feel heightened.

Oxytocin can also appear contradictory in that it stimulates the release of prostaglandins (to contract the uterine lining), which unfortunately can cause pain if inflammation is high, and yet Oxytocin also helps relieves pain. For example, a study found those with dysmenorrhea (very painful periods) had lower levels of Oxytocin than a control group who experienced ‘normal’ levels of pain.**

This is why it’s really important to lower inflammation in the body after ovulation has occurred (more on this another time) and also look after your mental health - take time out if you can (even if only for the first few hours), keep up your self care activities (including low-impact rather than strenuous exercise), seek out people who make you feel good and hug them (for at least 20 seconds to release oxytocin), buy your favourite food (but avoid caffeine, sugar, and ‘bad’ fats during this time especially), watch your favourite show, have a salt bath, read a good book - WHATEVER you need to do to feel happy/more comfortable during your period.

Then, the Oxytocin can actually heighten your good feelings, relieve pain, and you might be able to experience moments of bliss on your period.

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