Menstrual cycle-related changes in plasma oxytocin are relevant to normal sexual function in health women
Circulating levels of the neuro-hypophysial nonapeptide oxytocin increase during sexual arousal and orgasm in both men and women. A few studies have evaluated the effect of the menstrual cycle on plasma oxytocin in normally cycling, sexually active, healthy fertile women using or not using contraceptive pills. In 20 ovulating women and 10 women taking an oral contraceptive (group 1 and group 2, respectively), sexual function, hormonal profile, and plasma oxytocin (OT) were evaluated throughout the menstrual cycle. In group 1, plasma OT was significantly lower during the luteal phase in comparison with both the follicular and ovulatory phases. Plasma oxytocin was significantly correlated with the lubrication domain of the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) during the luteal phase and showed a trend towards statistical significance during the follicular phase. In group 2, plasma OT did not show any significant fluctuation throughout the menstrual cycle, even though a significant correlation was evident with both the arousal and the lubrication domain of the FSFI during the assumption of the contraceptive pill. These findings suggest that plasma OT fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle in normally cycling healthy fertile women with adequate sexual activity but not taking any oral contraceptive pill. Moreover, plasma OT levels significantly relates to the genital lubrication in both women taking and not taking oral contraceptive pill apparently confirming its role in peripheral activation of sexual function.