Being pregnant can make any sane woman go nuts. The dramatic changes that take place in a woman during pregnancy are usually associated with her ever-changing hormones – yes, it’s just hormones that can make a perfectly sane woman turn into an unpredictable creature during pregnancy.
The simple fact is that this potent mixture of chemicals that we call hormones is responsible for everything that happens to a woman’s body during pregnancy. Irrespective of how good or bad it is, every single change that takes place in your body can be attributed to your hormones. As you go through your own trials and tribulations during pregnancy, here are a few important hormones that you'll be witness to while expecting your bundle of joy:
This is the first hormone that is going to make an appearance in your body as soon as you get pregnant. Known as the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone, hCG is the first hormone to be picked up by a blood or urine test to detect pregnancy. In any given normal pregnancy, the level of hCG tends to double about every two days in the first 10 weeks and you’ll notice this rise if you get a blood test done.
hCG basically increases the blood supply to your pelvis, which is why you are bound to have an extremely sensitive bladder all through pregnancy. The blood surge that it causes actually makes your bladder want to do away with even the tiniest amount of urine. Also, the rising levels of hCG are the reason behind your morning sickness, but you can rest-assured that this side-effect of the hormone will taper off by the second trimester.
Progesterone is produced by a cyst on the ovary that is known as the corpus luteum. This particular hormone is produced by the corpus luteum until about 10 weeks after which the placenta takes over its production. Progesterone levels continue to rise all through the first trimester and then plateau. This particular hormone is responsible for a lot of important jobs during pregnancy like making sure that the uterus muscles remain relaxed and assists the immune system in tolerating ‘foreign DNA’ – your developing fetus.
Paired with high estrogen levels, this hormone further suppresses ovulation during pregnancy. It additionally encourages the growth of milk-producing glands in the breast all through pregnancy.
This hormone is also secreted by the corpus luteum and is produced till the time that the placenta takes over its secretion. Estrogen plays an important part in the development of the fetus. To be honest, several organs and other bodily systems in your baby are triggered into development by estrogen. Just so you know, your body will have higher levels of circulating estrogen by the end of the first trimester after which its levels are expected to decrease.
Estrogen basically stimulates hormone production in the adrenal glands of your developing baby. Along with that, it stimulates the growth of the adrenal gland and enhances the mother's uterus to the point that it starts responding to oxytocin. This goes on to show just how important estrogen is for a healthy pregnancy to continue.
4 Human Chorionic Somatomammotropin (hCS)
The placenta begins producing this protein hormone in the 5th week of pregnancy. With rising placental weight, its production continues to increase all through the nine months of pregnancy.
This particular hormone goes a long way in terms of assisting breast development and lactation. This is the reason why it's additionally known as ‘human placental lactogen or HPL. It further assists in protein tissue formation. Research suggests that hCS also triggers anti-insulin effects along with decreased insulin sensitivity in the expecting mother.
Also, hCS is known to increase levels of free fatty acids in a pregnant woman, thereby providing an alternative source of energy all through pregnancy.
The hormone known as oxytocin is responsible for stretching the cervix and stimulating the nipples so that milk may be produced. A majority of people consider oxytocin as the ‘hormone of love’ as its production is associated with lovemaking fertility and contractions during childbirth together with the release of milk for a baby to be breastfed.
Oxytocin is also believed to make us ‘feel good’ and has the potential to trigger nurturing behaviors. Receptor cells that make it possible for your body to respond to oxytocin tend to increase all through pregnancy and are at their peak during labor. This hormone stimulates powerful contractions, which goes a long way in terms of thinning and dilating the cervix, moving the baby down the birth canal, expelling the placenta and restricting bleeding at the site of the placenta.
Prolactin, which is also known as a milk-producing hormone, plays an extremely important role in maintaining a pregnancy and plays an even more important role after childbirth. This hormone increases by about 10 to 20 percent once a woman gets pregnant. Apart from its milk-producing qualities, it also delivers a tranquilizing effect and promotes relaxation.
It is believed that prolactin prepares breast tissues for lactation and assists in the release of milk. If you continue to breastfeed your baby after delivery the levels of this pregnancy hormone are going to remain rather high in your body. Also, after breastfeeding your baby for a couple of months, you can expect your prolactin levels to return to normal even if you continue to breastfeed your little one.
This hormone is responsible for loosening up the ligaments that hold together the pelvis. It also relaxes the uterine muscle so that your body is prepared to deliver your baby through the birth canal. As this hormone loosens your ligaments, it may lead to inflammation and pain in your knees, ankles, hips and shoulders.
When a pregnancy nears its end, this hormone promotes rupture of the membranes surrounding the fetus, and softens and opens the cervix and vagina so that the baby may move into the birth canal. Research further suggests that this hormone relaxes the ligaments found at the front of the pelvis so that delivery of the baby may become possible. So all in all, relaxin is one of the most important hormones required to maintain a healthy pregnancy and to make vaginal delivery a possibility.