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Oxytocin - Topic Overview

Oxytocin is a hormone released from the pituitary gland camera.gif 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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