Although this certainly is a magical time in your life, the chances are good that, along with the excitement and anticipation you may be feeling as a result of your pregnancy, you’ve noticed that your body has undergone fundamental physical changes, due in large part to the actions of hormones, powerful chemical messengers that play an active role in the months leading up to the birth of your child.
So what can you expect from your pregnancy hormones, then? A good first step towards preparing yourself for the 9 months leading up to the birth of your child is to understand the hormones that are involved in the pregnancy process.
The primary active hormone during pregnancy is human chorionic gonadotropin, also referred to as HCG. On the most fundamental level, HCG alerts the body to the presence of the fertilized, implanted egg and initiates a wide range of functions that are vital to ensuring that the woman is capable of successfully growing the fetus. Following successful implantation, HCG alerts the ovaries to stop the monthly egg maturation process (you can think of this as the menstrual cycle.) This is absolutely essential, as the removal of uterine lining, a process inherent in the menstrual cycle, must not occur during pregnancy.
During the first 10 weeks of a women’s pregnancy, HCG levels will often double their previous quantities every two days. The body discards unnecessary HCG through urine. Because of this, over-the-counter pregnancy tests often detect HCG levels in the urine to determine if a women has become pregnant.
As HCG levels increase, women may experience one of the most notorious first signs of pregnancy – morning sickness. Although a definitive connection between HCG and this infamous nausea has yet to be concretely established, it is quite likely that these large hormonal changes are, at least in some way, responsible.
In addition to human chorionic gonadotropin, progesterone is a key player in the significant physiological changes occurring inside a woman during the early stages of pregnancy. Progesterone levels are often seen to increase early into a pregnancy. Progesterone is released from the corpeus luteum, and is responsible for ensuring that the uterus remains relaxed and that the body does not reject the foreign DNA of the developing fetus. Although progesterone levels will significantly augment during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, levels will diminish following this initial period of development.
As progesterone acts as as muscle relaxer, veins throughout the body have been observed to widen, resulting in decreased blood pressure levels. If you’ve experienced dizziness or nausea , this could be the source of your ailments. That being said, progesterone’s crucial functions make it a necessary element of the pregnancy process.
For women who may have noticed their complexion worsen or changes in their skin’s pigment, these are side effects of increased levels of another key player in the group of pregnancy hormones at work – estrogen. Estrogen is also secreted by the corpus luteum (until this process is later taken over by the placenta) and is vitally important to the development of the fetus. That being said, it’s increased presence in your body may cause a number of observable side effects, including increased appetite, the development of ‘spider veins’ and the previously mentioned alterations to skin complexion and pigment.
In addition to these well known pregnancy hormones, several other chemicals offer supplementary functionality to the body’s toolkit during pregnancy. These include Oxytocin, Relaxin and Prolactin, more information about which will be discussed in our next edition of this blog! Stay tuned for more!
In A Nutshell: If you’ve recently become pregnant and are experiences negative physical symptoms, don’t panic. Your body is undergoing dramatic shifts that will likely induce a number of noticeable physiological alterations. That being said, it’s important to consult with your preferred medical professional often throughout this process to ensure that your pregnancy is developing correctly! Pregnancy hormones play a significant role in this amazing, wonderful process!