A young couple kiss during New Year's Eve celebrations.
A young couple kiss during New Year's Eve celebrations. Image by AP

Love hormone claim is simply bonkers

Lachlan Coady February 28, 2023
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Every time a woman has a new sexual partner her oxytocin levels diminish until they are eventually depleted.

OUR VERDICT

False. Women do not have a finite supply of oxytocin. The hormone is naturally produced by the body and levels are not depleted by new sexual partners.

A Facebook post claims that women have a finite supply of the hormone oxytocin.

The post (archived here) is a screenshot of an interaction on Twitter, where a user claims women are “chemically ruined” from having too many romantic partners.

The post argues that oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the love hormone, is depleted each time a woman bonds with a new partner.

A screenshot of the Facebook post
 The post suggests women have a finite supply of the hormone oxytocin. 

“Women release oxytocin during sex,” the post reads. “Oxytocin runs out. Each time a woman has sex with a new partner, her stores run lower and she is less able to pair bond with someone.”

The post concludes that after 10-15 sexual partners, oxytocin levels are depleted.

But this is false. Oxytocin is a hormone naturally produced by the body and does not permanently deplete.

“The body does not have a finite supply of oxytocin, like any hormone or neurotransmitter, you make (more) all the time. You make it new, it is used and broken down,” Associate Professor Femke Buisman-Pijlman, an expert on oxytocin and its impact on mental health at the Univeristy of Melbourne, told AAP FactCheck in an email.

A variety of health factors such as depressive symptoms can contribute to low oxytocin levels, but it is not depleted permanently by being released.

Oxytocin is often called the love hormone because it is released during romantic activity such as hugging, kissing or sex, creating positive feelings.

However, the hormone also serves a variety of other functions in the body, and promotes social connection in non-romantic contexts as well. For example, oxytocin is released by both parties when owners pet their dogs.

Doctors Susan Thomas and Theresa Larkin, from the University of Wollongong, explained the role of oxytocin.

“There are many things that stimulate the release of oxytocin. In everyone, this includes romantic activities such as hugging, kissing and sex, but also non-romantic social situations such as connecting with family and friends, caring for babies and children, singing together with others, and even bonding with pets,” they said in an email to AAP FactCheck.

Oxytocin is released during activities such as hugging and kissing.
 Oxytocin is released in the body during romantic activities such as hugging and kissing. 

They said oxytocin plays an important role in a variety of other bodily processes, particularly during childbirth and breastfeeding. The hormone also plays a role in male sexual function and the production of testosterone.

Oxytocin is released in response to stimulus and used for other functions by the body frequently throughout a person’s life. 

Dr Thomas and Dr Larkin rejected the claim that anyone has a finite supply of oxytocin, or that sex alone would deplete it.

“Scientific studies show that in both men and women, oxytocin rises during sexual activity and peaks during orgasm, and returns to baseline levels afterwards. But oxytocin function and production in the body is not affected in any way by having multiple sexual partners,” they said.

“There are no studies finding that sex depletes oxytocin levels over time or that having multiple partners reduces oxytocin levels.”

Oxytocin is often the source of sexist myths, example here.

The Verdict

The claim that every time a woman has a new sexual partner her oxytocin levels diminish until they are eventually depleted is false.

Oxytocin is constantly produced by the body, and while it is released during sex it returns to normal levels afterwards, according to experts and medical studies.

False ÔÇô The claim is inaccurate.

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