Oxytocin has been assayed in the jugular vein blood of goats during parturition; for comparison a few measurements were also made during pregnancy. The hormone was extracted from blood plasma by gel filtration, followed by lyophilization and then assayed in the lactating guinea-pig by the increase in intramammary pressure after intra-arterial injection.
No oxytocin could be detected in the blood during pregnancy and it was found in only one of eight goats studied during the first stage of labour. The hormone was present in appreciable quantities in blood taken during the second stage of labour, and in general, the concentration rose to a maximum when the head presented. In cases of twin births oxytocin was usually present in the blood during the birth of the second kid but at a concentration lower than during delivery of the first. After expulsion of the kid the blood oxytocin titre diminished rapidly, suggesting that secretion of oxytocin ceased as soon as the kid was born. In three experiments the total release of oxytocin during a considerable portion (2·7–11·0 min.) of the second stage labour was estimated as 223–726 m-u.
The results are consistent with the view that oxytocin is not essential for the induction of labour. Rather the hormone is released in response to stimuli arising from distension of the vagina and vulva, and by virtue of its contractile effect on the uterus assists parturition.
The half-life of intravenously injected oxytocin in the lactating goat was found to be 1 min. 22 sec. After storage of lyophilized blood extracts at −15° for 5 months milk-ejection activity had declined by only 27%.