Anecdotal evidence suggests that chronic bladder pain improves while breastfeeding. The present study sought to identify potential mechanisms for such a phenomenon by investigating the effects of the lactogenic hormones prolactin (PL) and oxytocin (OXY) in a rat model of bladder nociception. Lactating rats were less sensitive to urinary bladder distension (UBD) than controls. In investigating potential antinociceptive and anxiolytic roles for these hormones, we found exposure to a footshock paradigm (STRESS groups) produced bladder hypersensitivity in saline-treated rats, manifested as significantly higher electromyographical (EMG) responses to UBD, compared to rats exposed to a nonfootshock paradigm (SHAM groups). This hypersensitivity was attenuated by the intraperitoneal administration of OXY prior to footshock in the STRESS-OXY group. The administration of PL augmented EMG responses in the SHAM-PL group but had no effect on the responses of the STRESS-PL group. In the absence of behavioral pretreatment, OXY attenuated UBD-evoked responses while PL had no effect. Moreover, OXY-treated rats spent more time in the open arm of an elevated plus maze compared to saline-treated rats suggesting anxiolysis. These studies suggest the potential for systemic OXY, but not PL, as an analgesic and anxiolytic treatment for painful bladder disorders such as interstitial cystitis. Perspective: This study presents evidence that systemic oxytocin has both analgesic and anxiolytic properties which may make it a potentially useful agent for patients with stress-exacerbated chronic-pain syndromes such as interstitial cystitis. These studies do not suggest a similar role for prolactin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine