Plasma oxytocin concentrations were measured during late pregnancy, parturition and lactation in the miniature pig. Measurements were made of plasma oestradiol, oestrone and progesterone to determine whether there was any relationship between the concentrations of oxytocin and these steroids in the circulation.
Plasma oxytocin concentrations were low or undetectable in late pregnancy. Rises of up to 68·8 μu./ml were seen at the time of delivery of the foetuses and at the expulsion of the placenta. The only steroid that seemed to relate to oxytocin release was progesterone. Oxytocin release was consistently seen when progesterone concentrations had fallen to below 10 ng/ml but no increase in concentration was observed while oestrone and oestradiol increased to their maximum concentrations of 3·86–11·6 and 0·43–0·70 ng/ml respectively.
During lactation, when both oestrogen and progesterone concentrations were low, suckling caused the levels of oxytocin to increase to 7·4 μu./ml. These increases were greater during the first 2 weeks of lactation than later.