Background: Oxytocin and prolactin stimulate milk ejection and milk production during breastfeeding. The aim of the present study was to make a detailed analysis of maternal release of oxytocin and prolactin in response to breastfeeding during the second day postpartum in mothers who had received oxytocin either intravenously for stimulation of labor or intramuscularly for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage and/or epidural analgesia or those who had received no such treatment in connection with birth.
Methods: In a descriptive comparative study plasma oxytocin and prolactin concentrations were measured in response to suckling during the second day postpartum in women who had received intravenous intrapartum oxytocin (n = 8), intramuscular postpartum oxytocin (n = 13), or epidural analgesia, either with (n = 14) or without (n = 6) intrapartum oxytocin infusion, and women who received none of these interventions (n = 20). Hormone levels were analyzed by enzyme immunoassay.
Results: All mothers showed a pulsatile oxytocin pattern during the first 10 minutes of breastfeeding. Women who had received epidural analgesia with oxytocin infusion had the lowest endogenous median oxytocin levels. The more oxytocin infusion the mothers had received during labor, the lower their endogenous oxytocin levels were during a breastfeeding during the second day postpartum. A significant rise of prolactin was observed after 20 minutes in all women, but after 10 minutes in mothers having received oxytocin infusion during labor. In all women, oxytocin variability and the rise of prolactin levels between 0 and 20 minutes correlated significantly with median oxytocin and prolactin levels.
Conclusion: Oxytocin, released in a pulsatile way, and prolactin were released by breastfeeding during the second day postpartum. Oxytocin infusion decreased endogenous oxytocin levels dose-dependently. Furthermore, oxytocin infusion facilitated the release of prolactin. Epidural analgesia in combination with oxytocin infusion influenced endogenous oxytocin levels negatively.