Hormones, Hormones, Hormones!

One of those weird, emotional roller-coaster types of days today. I woke up in a great mood. Got to the gym, worried throughout my whole work-out that I was working too hard and going to hurt the tiny little life beginning to grow inside of me, but managed to get a great workout in. Pulled a half day at the hospital, went to a staff meeting, saw 2 kiddos and coached a soccer clinic. Busy day!! I’m a huge multi-tasker, so my brain is always and was constantly keeping tabs on my body, thinking about this crazy adventure that is just beginning and focusing on all of the daily tasks ahead of me. I read a few Facebook posts that actually brought me to tears (pretty rare), and had a couple moments where just thinking about our little life that fully made me cry! And then 3 minutes later, I’d turn around and reflect on how genuinely ticked off I am that a driver just cut me off, and then I was right back to crying about some emotional song that was playing on the radio.   Crazy. I’m not generally an emotional wreck, and if this is how it is going to be for the next 8 months, I’m already sick of it!

Another new feeling was a TINY little pressure in my pelvic region. I have always thought that I have an excellent awareness of my body. When tiny things change I often notice and correct without even thinking about it. I’m a physical therapist. It’s part of my job. So this new, tiny little pressure was a funny feeling that kept my mind a little bit preoccupied all day.

Here is some information on hormones and why us lucky ladies get to experience such a whirlwind of emotions during pregnancy.


This graph shows three of the most important hormones during pregnancy: Progesterone, Estrogen and hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin).

  • hCG
    • This is the hormone that most pregnancy tests pick up in your urine. It is produced immediately following fertilization and can be detected in the urine from 7-9 days post fertilization. It is produced by the cells surrounding the growing embryo, which eventually turn into the placenta. hCG typically peaks around 60-90 days after the first day of your last period.
    • Benefits – necessary to promote an ongoing, healthy pregnancy
    • Con’s – it suppresses your immune system to help support the growth of your baby and may also cause morning sickness symptoms
    • Here are the typical ranges of hCG throughout pregnancy


  • Estrogen
    • Production is stimulated by the increase in hCG, produced by the corpus luteum and then produced by the placenta (around week 10-12).
    • Benefits – regulates production of many hormones and assists in development of baby’s organs
    • Con’s – may increase spider veins, nausea and change skin pigmentation (which may aid in the “glow”)
  • Progesterone
    • Production is stimulated by hCG, produced by the corpus luteum and then produced by the placenta (around week 10-12)
    • Benefits – stimulates breast tissue growth. Also stimulates growth of blood vessels that supply the endometrium to support early pregnancy
    • Con’s – progesterone basically relaxes smooth muscle tissue meaning that it softens ligaments and cartilage (although this helps prepare the body for labor), may aid in dizziness, heartburn, gas, constipation and nausea. Progesterone may lower the immune system to help maintain pregnancy and it may increase hair growth

Some other important hormones to note

  • Relaxin
    • Produced by the placenta. Relaxin levels are generally highest in the first trimester and then peak again just before labor.
    • Benefits – promotes implantation early in the first trimester and inhibits contractions to prevent premature labor. Towards the end of pregnancy, it spikes again promoting the softening of the cervix and pelvic ligaments for labor
    • Con’s – relaxes muscles, bones, ligaments and joints (again, preparing the body for labor). This is the hormone that may increase the prevalence of low back and hip pain in pregnant women
  • Placental Growth Factor
    • The primary role of this hormone is to promote blood vessel growth
    • Benefits – supports increased blood volume
    • Con’s – may lead to spider and varicose veins
  • Human Placental Lactogen (HPL)
    • Produced by the placenta to help adjust your body’s metabolism to feed your baby
    • Benefits – prepares your breasts for breastfeeding
    • Con’s – may block insulin resulting in gestational diabetes
  • Oxytocin
    • Produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland.
    • Benefits – stimulates muscle contractions that aid in labor. It also boosts production of prostaglandins, which increase contractions during labor.   Oxytocin also aids in milk let-down during breastfeeding. Oxytocin helps stretch the cervix and stimulate the nipples to produce milk during labor. Oxytocin may also play a role in creating the mother-child bond post-partum
  • Prolactin
    • Produced by the anterior pituitary gland, uterus, and breasts
    • Benefits – increases breast size and aids in milk production







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