Oxytocin is a hormone released from the pituitary gland in the brain. During pregnancy, oxytocin causes labor contractions to begin. Oxytocin also is released when a woman’s breasts are stimulated by suckling or pumping, causing milk to move from the ducts and out the tiny holes in the nipple (let-down reflex). In the first few days after delivery, oxytocin also causes uterine contractions that help shrink the uterus back to its prepregnancy size.
After breast-feeding is established, your body may release oxytocin when you hear a baby cry, think of your baby, or have sexual intercourse. When this occurs, your breasts may leak milk whether or not you are actively breast-feeding or pumping.
Your body may not release oxytocin when you are anxious, embarrassed, or distracted. You may need to breast-feed in a relaxing, quiet, familiar, private place for let-down to occur.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kirtly Jones, MD, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology|
|Last Revised||April 14, 2011|
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