Oxytocin, a naturally occurring neuropeptide has been called the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical” because of its known effect on human bonding. This hormone traditionally known for its role in female reproduction has been investigated to have various roles associated with behaviours in both men and women, including greater feelings of attachment and bonding, trust, elevated mood, better ability to cope with stress, as well as increased orgasms and sexual experiences.
Naturally released during hugging and pleasant physical touching, oxytocin levels are high amongst those who are “falling in love” and it mediates other forms of bonding such as friendship and family relationships. High serum levels have been associated with with increased desire to maintain stronger, more resilient relationships, improve mood, increased feelings of connection, as well as relaxation. On the other hand, low levels of oxytocin have been affiliated with depressive states.
Oxytocin may also affect different anxiolytic functions, such as the reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels, reducing anxiety and increasing tolerance to pain.
A recent study has shown increased levels of oxytocin to increase sexual arousal, pronounce intensity of orgasms, and increase sexual receptiveness, heightening satisfaction after intercourse and contributing overall to a better sexual experience.
“Differential effects of intranasal oxytocin on sexual experiences and partner interactions in couples” – B. Behinia, M Heinrichs, W Bergmann, S Jung, J Germann, M Schedlowski, U Hartmann, TH Kruger
Knowledge about the effects of the neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) on human sexual behaviors and partner interactions remains limited. Based on our previous studies, we hypothesize that OXT should be able to positively influence parameters of sexual function and couple interactions. Employing a naturalistic setting involving 29 healthy heterosexual couples (n=58 participants), we analyzed the acute effects of intranasally administered OXT (24IU) on sexual drive, arousal, orgasm and refractory aspects of sexual behavior together with partner interactions. Data were assessed by psychometric instruments (Acute Sexual Experiences Scale, Arizona Sexual Experience Scale) as well as biomarkers, such as cortisol, α-amylase and heart rate. Intranasal OXT administration did not alter “classical” parameters of sexual function, such as sexual drive, arousal or penile erection and lubrication. However, analysis of variance and a hierarchical linear model (HLM) revealed specific effects related to the orgasmic/post-orgasmic interval as well as parameters of partner interactions. According to HLM analysis, OXT increased the intensity of orgasm, contentment after sexual intercourse and the effect of study participation. According to ANOVA analysis, these effects were more pronounced in men. Men additionally indicated higher levels of sexual satiety after sexual intercourse with OXT administration. Women felt more relaxed and subgroups indicated better abilities to share sexual desires or to empathize with their partners. The effect sizes were small to moderate. Biomarkers indicated moderate psychophysiological activation but were not affected by OXT, gender or method of contraception. Using a naturalistic setting, intranasal OXT administration in couples exerted differential effects on parameters of sexual function and partner interactions. These results warrant further investigations, including subjects with sexual and relationship problems.