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How hormones affect you during pregnancy holisticher

How hormones affect you during pregnancy

It can feel unfair that while some women feel great throughout their pregnancy, others have their heads in the toilet from conception to term. Unfortunately, the reality is that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy affect women completely differently. 

When it comes to how you feel during pregnancy, many people relate it to the physical effects of the growing belly. It's easy to forget the fact that there are also huge hormonal changes that affect your mood on several different levels! Perhaps it's all a little easier to accept if you understand the functions of all the hormones in your pregnant body!

How hormones affect you during pregnancy holisticher

5 hormones to monitor during pregnancy

The hormone HCG - what is it?

HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin as it is actually called, stimulates and increases the production of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Together, all three of these hormones act to preserve pregnancy. Levels of HCG rise very quickly in early pregnancy and is the hormone that shows up on a pregnancy test. As the hormone HCG is initially formed by the embryo, the likelihood that a pregnancy test would be wrong is therefore minimal! Due to the rapid increase of HCG together with oestrogen and progesterone, it is common to experience significant fatigue and nausea during the first weeks of pregnancy.

Increased levels of oestrogen

Levels of oestrogen are increased to help the uterus and placenta grow, but also to thicken the lining of the uterus. This enables the fertilised egg to grow and stay in the uterus! Oestrogen is then needed for foetal growth, so it is a very important hormone for those who are (or want to be) pregnant.

When oestrogen levels rise, pregnant women are affected differently. While some women feel good, others feel worse. The most common symptoms are mood swings and nausea. This is simply because people are unique individuals who react differently to hormones! Our lifestyle also affects the oestrogen in our body such as diet, exercise, stress and sleep.

Progesterone can give you a glow (and also stomach problems...)

The hormone progesterone helps to increase the thickness of the lining of the uterus and also softens the uterus so that it can grow. Together with oestrogen, progesterone is partly responsible for the glow that many pregnant women get on their skin during this time, which is usually appreciated when the extra tiredness is noticeable. Progesterone can also affect the bowels, making them work more slowly and sluggishly, as well as having an impact on the pregnant woman's mood swings.


Relaxin softens the pelvis

Relaxin helps to soften the joints and ligaments during pregnancy, making the pelvis more mobile. This is so that you can eventually push the baby out and facilitate labour! At the end of pregnancy, relaxin also helps to soften the uterine appendages to prepare for labour. When relaxin is secreted, you may feel pain in your pelvis due to the increased mobility. If you have a lot of pain, you should talk to your midwife and/or a physiotherapist to get the right help to manage it. That way, the pain is less likely to get worse as the pregnancy progresses.


Oxytocin - the love hormone!

Oxytocin is often referred to as our love hormone because it contributes to a sense of well-being. During the second and third trimesters, this hormone starts to increase and is responsible for several amazing functions in the pregnant body!

Pregnant women want to optimise their oxytocin levels and this can be done by resting and being calm. This puts the body in what is called a parasympathetic state, which means that the body relaxes to the maximum. When the oxytocin is secreted and flows well in the body, you feel very good psychologically, both pregnant and not. Under stress, adrenaline and cortisol are released instead, which counteracts the effect of oxytocin.

Oxytocin also contributes to contractions during labour and can be given as a chemically produced drug to stimulate labour pains, intensify them or make the uterus contract to push if necessary.

Oxytocin is not only important during pregnancy, but also after birth as the body and abdomen recover and heal. The body is so smart that the release of oxytocin increases the healing capacity of the body's tissues and cells! In addition, oxytocin is involved in the release of breast milk during breastfeeding.

You can stimulate the release of oxytocin through hugging, kissing, caressing and touching, but also massage, music that makes you feel good or activities that make you feel calm and relaxed in your body and mind.


Prolactin to promote breastfeeding

Prolactin is a lactation-promoting and breast milk-stimulating hormone that is produced during the third trimester and after delivery if a woman is breastfeeding. The hormone is produced in the brain and has a direct impact on stimulating breast milk, while oxytocin has more of an impact on the breast milk expulsion reflex. This means that the milk that is present actually comes out when the baby sucks!

Levels of prolactin increase as the baby sucks on the breast. The more you breastfeed, the more the hormone rises, which in turn leads to more breast milk. The production of prolactin is highest during the night, so it is good to breastfeed during the first hours of the night to best increase the amount of breast milk. Prolactin and oxytocin interact and are the cornerstones of successful breastfeeding.


Final words

After reading this article, you hopefully know one or two new things about hormones and their effects - both physical and mental. Perhaps this knowledge can help you be a little more forgiving of your body when it's at its worst!

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