Love Conquers All — Literally

December 6, 2014

Research suggests Oxytocin, the hormone that bonds mother to baby, also combats pain

The American Society of Anesthesiologists released results yesterday of a lab study that indicates the so-called ‘Love Hormone’ may aid in a woman’s recovery after childbirth.

The hormone Oxytocin, naturally occurring in the brain and spinal column in elevated levels during childbirth, has previously been credited with producing that warm and fuzzy feeling mommy feels towards baby after labor.

“Oxytocin in the brain is considered important to mother-baby bonding, trust, love and social engagement,” said Dr. James Eisenach, professor of obstetric and gynecologic anesthesia at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a news release from the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Eisenach’s study interviewed more than 1,200 women within 36 hours of giving birth. Only 1.8 percent of the women who had pain when they delivered still had pain six months later. Only 0.3 percent still had pain a year later, according to the study, which was published in the January issue of the journal “Anesthesiology.”

Additionally, lab research conducted in rats finds that elevated levels of oxytocin in the brain and spinal cord after birth protected mothers against the development of chronic pain. It’s important to note that animal research results do not always coincide with results in humans.

An accompanying “Anesthesiology”editorial by Dr. Cynthia Wong of Chicago’s Northwestern University implies the findings have still more far-reaching implications to human health.

“Understanding whether and how pregnancy protects against the development of post-traumatic chronic pain is not only important to women who give birth and their children, but may also provide therapeutic targets for future prevention and treatment of chronic pain in other populations,” Wong said.

Visit The Nemours Foundation Web site for more information on childbirth and pain.