By Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer
Published: 04/04/2014 05:00pm EST on LiveScience
A dose of the "love hormone" oxytocin may make people's orgasms more intense, a new study from Germany suggests.
In the study, 29 healthy couples who'd been together for at least a year took either an oxytocinnasal spray or a placebo spray before having sex in their home. After intercourse, participants completed a survey about their sexual experience as well as their feelings toward their partner.
Oxytocin had no effect on sex drive or arousal for either men or women, nor did it affect the ability to achieve an erection for men, or vaginal lubrication for women. [11 Interesting Effects of Oxytocin]
But those who took oxytocin before sex — especially men — reported slightly more intense orgasms, as well as greater levels of contentment after sex. In addition, men who took oxytocin said they felt more sexually sated after sex than those who took the placebo.
Some women who took oxytocin reported that they were better able to share their sexual desires and empathize with their partners during sex.
"This field study demonstrates that [oxytocin] may alter specific aspects of sexual experience and partner interactions in healthy couples," the researchers, from Hannover Medical School in Germany, wrote in the March issue of the journal Hormones and Behavior.
Previous studies have suggested that oxytocin plays a role in relationship bonding, and the hormone is known to be released from the brain's pituitary gland during orgasm. But few studies have examined whether higher levels of the hormone affect sexual behavior.
The researchers noted that even though oxytocin seemed to intensify people's orgasms, the effect was rather modest. For example, men who took the hormone rated their contentment after sex about half a point higher (on a six-point scale) than those who took the placebo. This may be because oxytocin is already released during sex, so the effect of additional oxytocin may not be very large, the researchers said.
The researchers also noted the study was small and involved adults who reported no sexual problems. Future studies are needed to confirm the findings and to see whether the hormone may help those with sexual dysfunction, such those as low sexual desire or erectile dysfunction, the researchers said.