Pregnancy Hormones: Understand Everything About Pregnancy Hormones

Pregnancy Hormones
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

When you get pregnant, your body starts creating hormones that you might not know a lot about. These hormones are designed to help a woman and her growing baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, learn all you can about pregnancy hormones.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

The luteinizing hormone is also known as lutropin, and occasionally lutrophin. It is a hormone that is created by the body’s gonadotroph cells, which are located in the pituitary gland. These hormones are not actually involved in pregnancy but rather the process just before – ovulation.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

The follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH, is also created by the gondatroph cells in the pituitary gland. This hormone is also not actually involved in pregnancy. However, it does regulate a body’s development, growth, puberty rate of maturing and the reproductive processes. So, in some ways it does aid* in pregnancy as a body can’t become pregnant if not reproductively ready.

Estrogen and Progesterone

The hormone estrogen is involved with the menstrual cycle as well as the estrous cycle. Estrogen improves* vascularization in the uterus and placenta to allow for the transfer of nutrients to the growing fetus. Some believe that estrogen also plays a vital role in fetus development and maturation. During the second trimester, estrogen plays a key role in the development of milk ducts within the expectant mother’s breasts. A surge in estrogen encourages* the release of luteinizing hormones, which is how ovulation is triggered.

On the other hand, progesterone is involved in the female menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis. It is believed that progesterone signals human sperm as it travels through the female tract before fertilization, but its key role is in pregnancy. The endometrium converts to its secretory stage with the aid* of progesterone. This prepares the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg. Along with all of those changes, progesterone is the pregnancy hormone that causes an expectant mother’s joints and ligaments to loosen up. It also causes some internal structures to grow in size, including the size of the uterus while a fetus is growing inside.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)

This hormone is not created in a woman’s body until she is pregnant. Human chorionic gonadotropin is created by the synctiotrophoblast, which is a part of the fertilized egg. This hormone is what aids* in the formation of the placenta. The luteinizing hormone is considered the pituitary analog of hCG. Levels of hCG increase* rapidly during pregnancy starting with an increase* from 5 mIU/mL to as high as 117,000 mIU/mL at forty weeks pregnant.

More About HCG Hormones

The human chorionic gonadotropin hormone is believed to cause many of the symptoms women experience in early pregnancy. These include the morning sickness many women experience as well as frequent urination because hCG is the hormone that increases* blood flow to the pelvis. This section of the article discusses more specifically about HCG hormone.

What Does a Low HCG Level Mean?

Usually, this means that the woman is not pregnant. If she received a positive pregnancy test and is now testing lower hCG levels, that could mean a miscarriage. Early miscarriage before twelve weeks of pregnancy are quite common, and most women will experience them without even realizing they were pregnant or that they are miscarrying. If you are experiencing a lost pregnancy, your hCG levels will eventually return to normal.

What Does a High Level of HCG Mean?

High levels of hCG could mean one of three things. It could mean that the woman was wrong regarding the date of conception and implantation. Molar pregnancies are also known to cause women to test with high levels of hCG because the growth of the mole is much faster than the growth of a normal fetus. If an ultrasound reveals that the high hCG levels are not because of the growth of a mole, it could mean that the baby is actually at a different stage of growth. This would mean a miscalculation regarding pregnancy dating. However, it can also mean that the woman is actually experiencing a multiple pregnancy meaning twins or triplets or more.

Is There a Need to Regularly Check HCG Levels?

Most doctors will check your hCG levels once or twice during your pregnancy. If you have a history of miscarriage or are showing possible signs of a problem in your pregnancy, your levels may be checked more often. It is ultimately up to your doctor.

Does Medication Interfere with HCG Levels?

No medications except those containing hCG are known to interfere with a woman’s hCG levels. If you are trying to become pregnant with fertility treatments, you may be given medications that contain hCG. As such, your doctor may warn you regarding pregnancy testing while on those drugs.

Hormones and Emotional Fluctuations

Both estrogen and progesterone increase* in a woman when she is pregnant. Women will create more estrogen during their pregnancy than they will throughout their entire lives when not pregnant. Along with many of the changes above, these increases* in hormones can encourage* hair and nail growth. However, many of these changes are only temporary, and they should revert to normal after pregnancy is complete.

If you have any concerns regarding your hormones during pregnancy, you should immediately contact your doctor. Only your doctor will be able to tell you if your hormone levels are normal or abnormal for your pregnancy. Some women can experience low levels of hCG and still have a healthy pregnancy, so do not jump immediately to the conclusion that you are miscarrying if your levels do not increase*. Again, speak with a doctor for information regarding your particular case.

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Author

Expert Author : Peony C Echavez (Consumer Health Digest)

Peony is a registered nurse, and former Director of Nursing services for a large nursing facility. She has written web content for a large health education website, and currently creates content for a number of health practisioners.