As a would-be mum, are your mood swings and inconsistent behavior getting the better of you? Well, before you start driving yourself crazy wondering what’s wrong with you, just rest assured. The problem lies not in you, but in your hormones –those pesky chemicals that seem to gain the upper hand during pregnancy.
It seems, pregnancy can turn any sensible woman into a moody being with wildly fluctuating emotions and behavior, and this unpredictable behavior is brought on by the chemicals(hormones) rushing through the body. During pregnancy a lot of changes that we go through are visible such as an increase in our belly or breast size, but simultaneously there are a lot of other subtle changes that are going on in our body.
These changes are brought on by hormones, powerful chemicals present in our body that affect both our body and mind during pregnancy. From our emotions that change at the drop of a hat, to an unprecedented nesting urge, hormones influence our pregnancy in a big way. Hormonal changes during pregnancy not only bring out that special “glow” in us, but play a very important role in the development of the baby.
As they say, knowledge is power and getting to know about these important chemicals is absolutely essential so that one is better prepared to handle their not-so-good side-effects. Therefore, read on to get up close and personal with these vital hormones that takes us on a ride during pregnancy.
7 Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
HCG is one of the first hormones that you’re going to encounter early on in your pregnancy. HCG levels will generally remain high during the first 10 weeks of your pregnancy. HCG moves through the body and is eliminated in the urine and a high concentration of this hormone in one’s urine is a clear indication that one is pregnant. That plus sign which you notice when you go for the pregnancy kit is nothing but HCG.
In addition to being one of the primary hormones present during pregnancy, HCG is also the one responsible for making your life hell especially during the first trimester of your pregnancy. Huge, surging quantities of HCG in the first trimester contribute to morning sickness which one is most likely to experience in the first trimester. A woman with higher levels of HCG is going to experience greater vomiting and nausea when pregnant.
Therefore, if morning sickness has you foxed — morning, noon, night, or all through the day — you now know whom to blame. It certainly is no coincidence that the symptom of morning sickness usually lessens during the second trimester when HCG levels start to decrease. If you are peeing all the time then again you can blame HCG.
Apart from experiencing dizziness and morning sickness symptoms, you might also feel certain amount of tenderness in the breasts. HCG also causes the uterus to swell so you might feel an uncomfortable feeling of added pressure being placed on the bladder. If you are finding the symptoms too hard to handle, you can take a hydrochloric acid supplement that can help you with your heartburn, morning sickness and constipation symptoms.
Early on in pregnancy, progesterone is made by a cyst called the corpus luteum. For the first 10 weeks after conception, the corpus luteum produces progesterone after which its production is handed over to the placenta. The levels of progesterone rise dramatically in the first trimester and then they plateau out.
Progesterone plays a very vital role during pregnancy – apart from keeping the uterine muscle in a relaxed state it plays an important role in the immune system by helping the body tolerate the foreign DNA (in this case, the fetus). Progesterone hormone relaxes the uterine muscles so that the foreign DNA (fertilized egg) can have a safe landing while implanting.
But progesterone hormone is not selective in nature thus along with the uterine muscles, the other muscles in the body also relax leading to a lot of problems for a pregnant lady. For instance, the bowel muscles relax causing bowel distention. The blood vessels throughout the body relax thereby prompting lower than normal blood pressure; thus you might experience that occasional dizzy spell.
The esophageal muscles also relax causing increased acid reflux and heartburn especially during the last trimester. Progesterone also slows down the intestinal tract so constipation becomes a very common complaint among pregnant women. This hormone also creates a tranquilizing effect to protect the pregnant woman against stress - one of the reasons why pregnant women can handle so much thinking and anxiety.
Fatigue, feeling drowsy, acne breakouts and unwanted hair growth are other common side-effects of progesterone.
Similar to progesterone, estrogen is secreted by the corpus luteum until the placenta is capable enough to produce it. Estrogen is a very important hormone as its presence is required for the development of various organs in the fetus. The role of estrogen is absolutely vital during pregnancy: not only does it stimulate hormone production in the adrenal gland of the fetus, but also stimulates the mother's uterus enabling it to respond to oxytocin.
Estrogen also enhances the effect of nitric oxide, a gas that helps in widening the blood vessels thus more estrogen means better blood flow. Estrogen secretion peaks right before birth and declines afterward. Although estrogen is present during our periods, during pregnancy their levels rise dramatically almost to 100 times of their original levels.
No doubt, estrogen is vital for the health of the placenta and the fetus, but there are some side effects to be experienced with this hormone. During pregnancy, estrogen causes an increase in vaginal and cervical mucus production, which is why you are likely to notice excess vaginal discharge.
While increased estrogen levels may lead to skin pigmentation and spider veins certain women are lucky enough to experience the special “glow” associated with pregnancy, normally attributed to higher presence of estrogen in the body. The estrogen levels decrease in the body after giving birth and decrease further when breast feeding.
Your estrogen levels will return to normal only when your normal menstrual cycle resumes, but till then, be prepared for a gamut of emotions and symptoms as your estrogen levels keep fluctuating. If you are bothered by the side-effects you can take a mineral supplement containing magnesium, c- kelp and calcium lactate at night which will balance out the hormones and provide you relief.
Wondering if it’s in your mind or has your body really become more flexible when doing prenatal yoga? Well, you have to thank relaxin for it. Relaxin, as the name suggests is responsible for loosening up the ligaments and the joints in the pelvis so as to make room for the growing fetus. Otherwise trying to grow a baby inside the uterus would be like squeezing a big bear inside a drawer.
Flexibility is most important in the uterine region and this is provided by the hormone relaxin. This is what makes your body so flexible. The only problem is that the things you don’t want relaxed also become affected leading to a lot of complications. Generally the effects of relaxin are felt more in the pelvic region. A common complaint among pregnant women is that they experience pain in the pelvic region.
Softening and loosening of the joints in this region can lead to pain in the pelvic area. Softer joints lead to decreased stability resulting in a pregnant woman becoming more prone to falls and injuries. Sometimes you might even experience pain in the lower back and the wrists. Relaxin is also known to relax the arteries so as to handle the increased blood volume flow during pregnancy otherwise your blood pressure would simply shoot through the roof.
Pregnant women also experience increased incidences of heartburn as the stomach muscles relax resulting in stomach acids creeping back into the esophagus. The frequency of constipation also increases as relaxin reduces gut motion. Taking supplements or vitamin e-rich foods can provide you relief but do this under medical guidance as taking too much of vitamin E has been linked to stillbirth cases.
3 Oxytocin and Endorphins
Oxytocin is also known as the hormone of bonding and love as it is related to love, fertility, contractions during birth and the let-down of milk during breastfeeding. In the days leading up to delivery this feel-good hormone causes a lot of women to go through the nesting feeling where they go on a baking spree or begin washing and cleaning the house. During the labor process, oxytocin helps in reducing labor pain thus affording the woman some amount of relief.
After delivery oxytocin enables the uterus to return to its original size. When the baby is born and the mother holds her baby, she develops strong feelings of love towards her baby which is caused by the influence of oxytocin. Oxytocin thus helps in strengthening the baby-mother bond.
To handle the pain during childbirth, our body releases certain hormones called endorphins. Levels of endorphins increase dramatically during birth of the baby, especially if the baby is born naturally and without medications. It’s due to the presence of high endorphin levels that a woman is able to tide through the difficult and challenging period of childbirth.
Low levels of endorphins can make the labor process extremely painful in nature. During the initial days, endorphins are believed to strengthen the mother-child relationship as well. In fact the “blues” that some women experience after childbirth can be attributed to a drop in endorphin levels.
2 Hormones and Emotional Upheavals
While all these physical symptoms are obvious and easy to pinpoint, there are other effects of pregnancy hormones, which at first though are not obvious, but are just as important. During pregnancy, the increased level of hormones coursing through the body affects the neurotransmitters - the chemicals in the brain that regulate our mood. This is responsible for the gamut of emotional upheavals a woman goes through.
Different women respond differently to the changes thus be prepared to experience anything from depression, to mood swings to a heightened sense of anxiety. You’re more likely to feel these changes around six to 10 weeks into the pregnancy and then again during the third trimester when your body prepares for delivery. A certain amount of anxiety regarding the way you feel about yourself and concerns about the health of your unborn baby is quite normal.
But overreacting to situations can turn problematic both for you and people around you. You might find yourself getting teary-eyed for even the slightest thing or again there might be no reason at all. The most frustrating part is that you might have a hard time explaining the situation to others. This kind of a scenario is obviously going to make things difficult for both you and your partner.
Just keep in mind that what you’re going through is perfectly normal and simply recognizing this fact can make things a lot easier for both you and your partner. No doubt, your mood swings are going to be a source of anxiety but there’s no point in stressing over them unnecessarily. As it is, being an expectant mother brings with it a lot of worries, so why take the added stress of analyzing each and every action of yours.
An easy way out – simply put the blame on those raging hormones.
1 What to do When Your Hormonal Imbalance Is Too Extreme
There are a number of women who do experience an extreme hormonal imbalance during pregnancy, this affects 14-23% of pregnant women according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This includes mood disorders; antenatal depression and postpartum depression.
Other side effects of hormonal imbalance can cause severe constipation, extreme fatigue, skin problems, trouble sleeping and weight gain. If you suffer from any of these problems, the best remedy comes from your doctor. Always let them know what's happening and how these troubles are affecting your daily routine. From there your doctor can guide you to a diet that can remedy some of these symptoms, or prescribe medication that can aid you in certain situations.
If you find that your doctor has prescribed something and it doesn't seem to work, continue to take the medication as prescribed and inform your doctor that you aren't feeling any relief with the help of the medication. If your approved to discontinue then stop immediately, but never take yourself off your medication, your doctor should inform you as how and when to stop taking medication for your and your baby's health.
Before you make any changes during pregnancy, you should always consult your midwife or doctor. They can guide you and help you better than anyone can.