Chalk up still another important role for oxytocin: It may be the key to why women gain too much weight during pregnancy.
A study at Otago University found that oxytocin and prolactin seem to act as on/off switches for the appetite. Oxytocin contributes to satiety after meals -- as well as to milk let-down, trust, generosity and love. Increased prolactin may switch off oxytocin's satiation factor, encouraging the pregnant woman to eat more in order to support the developing fetus and milk production.
But Dr Colin Brown, a physiology researcher at Otago University, said more than 40 per cent put on too much weight - putting themselves and their babies at greater risk of birthing complications, and the children at increased risk of obesity and other health problems later in life.
Understanding this mechanism could help women who pack on the pounds, endangering their own health and increasing the chances the baby will grow up to be tubby, as well, according to the docs.