Pregnancy hormones seem to get a bad wrap and cop the blame for every little ache, pain, hair growth/loss, discharge, condition, diagnosis and bodily change during pregnancy....but what exactly are they? And what do they actually affect or are responsible for during our nine months of gestation?
In today's post we wanted to give you a quick rundown of the 5 main pregnancy-related hormones and what they do:
1. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (usually referred to as HCG):
You may have seen this hormone mentioned a lot during the beginning of your pregnancy. Usually called HCG (as it's a whole lot easier to pronounce) is the most prominent hormone present during pregnancy as it's role is to assist in the formation of the placenta and to communicate with the ovaries; that matured egg production is no longer needed for the next nine months. HCG is detected through urine, therefore it is this hormone that is traced in a pregnancy test. During the first trimester of pregnancy your HCG levels will double every day - these levels are usually tested and tracked at your Doctor and scan appointments.
Estrogen plays a very important role for several reasons. One being it's huge responsibility in the development of the fetal structure and the formation of your baby's organs. Estrogen is secreted by the corpus luteum (a temporary structure within the ovaries) until the placenta takes over this role. This hormone also helps to stimulate the production of hormones in the fetus's adrenal glands as well as enhancing the health and functionality of the uterus. By the start of the second trimester, the Estrogen levels should settle and this is when morning sickness can start to subside.
Although Estrogen plays a very important role in the development and safety of your baby, it's also the known culprit of nausea, excessive hair growth, skin pigmentation, spider veins and an increased appetite. These are all healthy symptoms though, and just part of the pregnancy journey.
Like Estrogen, Progesterone is made in the ovaries by a temporary structure (cyst) called the corpus luteum, until the placenta takes over this role. Progesterone is known as the 'protector' hormone as it contributes to a strong immune system (in the fetus) and a muscle relaxant for the uterus.
On the flipside, it's also responsible for excessive hair growth (on the expecting mother) in unusual places (breasts, stomach and face) and plays a large role in other symptoms such as; nausea, heartburn, reflux, vomiting, constipation and gas. All of these things, although not much fun, are signs of a pregnancy developing well. Take peace in knowing they will go away in late pregnancy or post-birth.
Oxytocin is referred to the 'labour inducing' hormone, as your uterus becomes more sensitive to this hormone in late pregnancy. It is also the hormone that stretches and prepares your cervix for childbirth. (When women are induced in hospital, they are given Pitocin which is a synthetic version of Oxytocin to bring on the labour process).
Prolactin is the hormone responsible for producing milk within the breasts for nurturing your baby. This hormone gets to work throughout the whole pregnancy but increases in late pregnancy and post-birth.
There are more hormones involved that all work together in unison to develop, maintain, nurture and protect your growing fetus and changing body, however these are the main five that you would notice most during your pregnancy.
As you can see those pesky hormones that cause our mood swings, food cravings, energy level inconsistencies and bodily changes are in fact doing a whole lot of good at the same time. Ironically, they're doing more good than bad :)
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- Dealing with Aches & Pains During Pregnancy
- Green Smoothies to Drink During Pregnancy
- Sleeping Well During Pregnancy
- Avoiding and Treating Stretch Marks