In pretty much every single issue regarding pregnancy, hormones tend to be in the spotlight… And most of the time, it's not for good reasons.
Indeed, such molecules 'take the blame' for almost all the symptoms that you are going to experience during these nine months, and sure they deserve it! Pregnancy hormones are responsible for your expanding uterus, breast milk production and the rest of the physical changes that will happen to your body, so basically they make pregnancy happen. And yes, that includes countless side effects as well, like morning sickness, dizziness or bloating, that may torn you down day after day. No, it won't be pretty!
Don't you want to know 'who' (yes, with names!) is causing you so much discomfort? It's time for you to understand how pregnancy hormones work and what to expect from each one of them. That's why we are dedicating this post to the six hormones that will change your life while waiting for your baby's arrival.
Pregnancy hormones: Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC)
To be more precise, when people talk about pregnancy hormones, they mainly refer to Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC), which is exactly the one produced by the cells of the 'brand-new' placenta. HGC, which is found in your blood and urine, plays the most important role when it comes to adapting your body to your future-mum condition, since it makes the ovaries stop the production of eggs during this period of time. During the first ten weeks of your pregnancy, HGC levels will rise as much as double every two days, which will make you be on a roller coaster... or did you think that nausea and vomiting happen early on your pregnancy by coincidence?
That's not all, though, since HGC is 'guilty as charged' over other symptoms like frequent urination and a weaker immune system.
Pregnancy hormones: Progesterone
The corpus luteum, an ovarian cyst, is in charge of producing progesterone during the first ten weeks of pregnancy, when these hormone levels peak. Progesterone is essential in pregnancy, since it causes the uterus muscle, along with other smooth muscles, to relax, and it lets your immune system tolerate the foetus. However, this hormone is a 'source' of side effects, such as dizziness, which is provoked by the relaxation of the blood vessels, and most gastrointestinal issues: heartburn, gas, reflux and constipation, which won't be fun to deal with. Progesterone, whose levels get more stable once you enter the second trimester of pregnancy, when it is produced by the placenta, is also linked to hair growth while being pregnant.
Pregnancy hormones: Oestrogen
Oestrogen is secreted the same way as progesterone; first, by the corpus luteum, and later on by the placenta. This hormone is very active during the first trimester of pregnancy (in the second, its levels balance), because it helps develop the foetus, from its organs to other bodily systems. It also has a key role when it comes to stimulating hormone production in the foetus's adrenal gland, and making the uterus react to oxytocin.
High oestrogen levels are the main cause of skin problems during pregnancy, like changes in the pigment and spider veins. Such hormones are also associated with increased appetite and the famous 'pregnancy glow'.
Among his other functions, it's important to pinpoint that oestrogen is a vasculo-protective hormone that can keep you from getting certain cardiovascular diseases.
Pregnancy hormones: Relaxin
The fact that these pregnancy hormones are called relaxin isn't a misnomer. Their mission is to loose up the ligaments that keep the pelvic bones together, thus allowing the uterine muscle to relax. They multiply per 10 when you are pregnant. Yes, this is how your body gets ready for delivery!
The 'dark side' of relaxin is pain and inflammation of your ligaments, especially in your hips, shoulders, knees and ankles.
Pregnancy hormones: Oxytocin
Oxytocin is often linked to labour, because it does cause uterine contractions during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Actually, Pitocin, one of the drugs commonly used to induce labour, is the synthetic version of oxytocin, so that's how important this hormone is. It's also responsible for stretching the cervix and, according to some studies, for raising sexual arousal.
Pregnancy hormones: Prolactin
Also known as the milk-producing hormone, its purpose is pretty clear. Prolactin 'sets up' your breast tissues in preparation for lactation, a non-stop process throughout pregnancy. That's why it isn't surprising that these hormone levels increase 10 to 20 times before your baby's arrival.
Your ideas about pregnancy hormones may have changed, even if just a little bit, after reading these lines. All of it has to do with a fascinating process through which your body sets the right conditions to host and nurture a developing human being... without forgetting about you! But that, of course, isn't easy, and that's why you are likely to suffer from so many annoying symptoms. Your body will struggle until delivering your baby out of the womb, though the result sure will pay off!