The power of love

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Head of the Maternity Ward and Delivery Room at Hillel Yaffe, Dr. Haim David, explains how oxytocin, also known as the hormone of love, influences the mother-infant relationship, and how to boost it

The ability to create a relationship between people is based on genetic, hormonal, nerval, and behavioral factors. The first relationship begins between the mother and the new baby and is based on touch, smell, gaze, etc. This relationship has great influence on the development of the interpersonal relationship between the infant and his mother, and particularly on the newborn’s cognitive and emotional development, with it being primarily based on the oxytocin hormone.


Throughout our lives we experience many situations, such as during childbirth, sexual relations, or even when hugging, when oxytocin – known as the “hormone of love” is released in our bodies. It is released from a gland in the brain called the pituitary gland (hypophysis), and has an effect principally on the female, but also the male, sexual organs.


“After birth, the main role of oxytocin is to cause contractions in the mother’s uterus, and thereby prevent superfluous hemorrhaging. It also causes general contractions of the muscles, such as in the milk ducts during breastfeeding or in the sexual organ ducts during orgasm,” explains Head of the Maternity Ward and Delivery Room at the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, Dr. Haim David. “The presence of the hormone in the blood affects human behavior, and in particular, contributes to the creation of loving relationships.”


It is recommended to increase oxytocin levels. Dr. Haim David


In addition, oxytocin has another advantage. It can calm the hormones of stress. “Studies prove that extended hugging contributes to a reduction in feelings of stress and anxiety, by raising oxytocin levels in the blood,” notes Dr. David.


Studies, among both people and animals, reached the conclusion that a high level of oxytocin in the brain greatly improves the mother-infant bond by nurturing, feeding, and breastfeeding, and leads to empathy, closeness, and security. Whereas low levels of the hormone lead to rejection or neglecting the baby.


The reverse relationship was also true – positive behavior by the mother towards the child led to higher levels of oxytocin being released. In situations of postpartum depression, low levels of oxytocin were found, and it is unclear whether the low oxytocin level caused the depression, or the converse, the poor mental health led to a drop in oxytocin levels. In any event, there is clear correlation between oxytocin levels and behavioral patterns.


Dr. David concludes: “From the fact that oxytocin is a calming hormone, which reduces anger, brings people closer, and is released during various love events, my recommendation on Valentine’s Day is not only from the aspect of the mother-infant relationship. Try to increase your and your loved ones’ oxytocin levels with a good word or a real hug, all year long.”

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