It is indeed interesting for a would-be-mom to understand what changes happen inside her body as her baby continues to grow and develop inside her womb. There are obvious symptoms during the 9 month long gestation period for which the cascade of hormones is responsible. This is the time of mood swings and incessant backaches. You really don’t know what is going on inside. Here are 9 vital hormones to know about what make your pregnancy both good and a not-so-good an experience.
Pregnancy Hormones – Conception To Birth
Follicle stimulating hormone controls the synthesis of eggs in women and helps regulate the menstrual cycle. FSH is a crucial hormone, especially during the initial phase of pregnancy. It aids in the formation of the placenta, an organ that connects the fetus to the uterine wall to provide nourishment to the baby.
Every month, in a normal menstrual cycle, an egg is released from a follicle, which is present inside an ovary. LH or Luteinizing hormone is responsible the maturation of the egg inside the follicle. This causes the follicle to burst, releasing the egg. LH levels reduce with the occurrence of pregnancy and its functions are taken over by yet another pregnancy hormone called hCG.
Human chorionic gonadotropin comes into play after fertilization takes place. It stimulates an increased production of progesterone and estrogen. hCG also keeps a check on the mother’s immune system to protect the developing fetus. An hCG test can give a positive confirmation of pregnancy as this hormone is produced only when the fertilized egg gets attached to the uterine wall. Its levels keep altering throughout the gestation period and reduce to nil post delivery. This helps in determining the health of the baby at various stages of pregnancy.
Triggered by the hormone hCG, estrogen levels shoot up in the third trimester of the pregnancy. Increased estrogen levels contribute to the development of the baby, including its vital organs like liver, kidneys and lungs. Mothers experience nausea, mood swings, lower back pain and even constipation as a side effect this hormone. Breast enlargement that occurs during the second trimester is also triggered by estrogen. In other words, it regulates the production of other hormones responsible for continuing the pregnancy.
Progesterone is another hormone that gets induced by hCG, and eventually by the placenta. Apart from playing an important role in the development of the foetus, it is also responsible for preventing any further release of eggs, until the gestation period. Although the mother can lactate at four months of pregnancy, progesterone prevents the lactation and prepares the mammary glands to produce milk post delivery. And if you are wondering how a small space inside your belly can hold the baby, then progesterone is the answer. It helps the uterus to grow in size as pregnancy proceeds over months.
As can be associated with the name, this hormone relaxes your muscles, ligaments and softens the cartilage, preparing your body for the labor. Relaxin also causes blood vessel growth to increase, providing your baby with the required amount of nourishment as the gestation period proceeds.
HPL or Human placental lactogen is produced by the placenta. It helps in breaking down the mother’s fats to feed the baby. Though in some cases, it causes resistance to insulin and carbohydrate intolerance leading to gestational diabetes.
Oxytoxin is one among the cascading pregnancy hormones, which is present in increased amounts during delivery. It is responsible for uterine contractions with the onset of labor. Oxytoxin also induces a feeling of euphoria in the mother, promoting a strong bond between the mother and the baby.
Another important function of Oxytoxin is to help the uterus restore back to its original shape soon after delivery. This helps in preventing excessive bleeding and other complications after birth.
The most important role that prolactin plays in the mother’s body is to stimulate the production of milk post delivery. Due to increased levels of prolactin, the breasts get enlarged and well prepared in advance for the baby to nurse upon. Also during the postnatal period, the release of prolactin inhibits ovulation. This is the reason that breastfeeding women don’t get periods and rarely get pregnant. Gradually, the prolaction levels get normalized, leading to the usual menstrual cycle.
Hormone levels during pregnancy can determine the health and growth of both the mother and the baby. This peculiar hormonal journey, right from the first positive pregnancy test to forming the first bond with the newborn includes all the work of a chemical cocktail.