It’s crazy amazing what happens to your body when you become pregnant. I had one client tell me she felt like a science experiment. I think it’s more like your body becomes a factory which is gearing up for a very sophisticated, one of a kind product. There is a cascade of events that suddenly go into action. The driving force behind all of this activity are hormones.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel in the blood. They go to various tissues and organs and give orders to your cells to do certain things. When you become pregnant your hormones know it and start moving into action well before you even realize you’re pregnant. One of the first things they do is direct your body build a new organ.
That’s right. Your body builds a whole new organ when you’re pregnant! You need a placenta to support your developing baby. Once you have had your baby this organ is no longer needed and your body gets rid of it. Pretty incredible.HCG and Progesterone
The first hormone you will become aware of is HCG. The placenta produces this hormone and the larger your placenta gets, the more HCG it is producing. You might first notice the effects of this hormone when you start feeling a little queasy. HCG is also the hormone that turns your pregnancy test positive.
In order to keep us healthy our immune system signals the body when something foreign like a virus doesn’t belong and works to get rid of it. First of all, it’s very important that your immune system doesn’t think of your baby as foreign but rather as something that belongs and is meant to be there. There are various other hormones that create a supportive environment for your baby and help your baby to grow and develop. Think about when you are sick, and your body produces a fever to fight off infection. When you are pregnant, the hormone progesterone works with your immune system to alert your body that everything is OK, and that the new DNA that is being produced should stay. It keeps the body from rejecting your baby and keeps you pregnant. It also relaxes your blood vessels, which keeps your blood pressure down.Estrogen and Relaxin
Now that your body knows that it is making something very special, the hormone estrogen takes over. It triggers the development of the adrenal gland in your baby, which stimulates the production of adrenalin – responsible for your baby’s growth and development. At this point all those cells start becoming specialized and develop into specific body parts like arms and legs, eyes, and internal organs. And so your baby continues to grow from a little “lentil” into a fully developed being.
At a certain point you may feel a little unstable in your joints. Holding onto a glass of water may be iffy. You find that you can’t get a grip on things. Blame it on the hormone relaxin. One of the most important functions of relaxin is to soften the ligaments of the pelvis, allowing the bones to widen. This is a good thing because it allows you to birth more easily. Unfortunately relaxin doesn’t discriminate so it relaxes not only the pelvis but all the joints and ligaments in the body. That’s why you sometimes feel wobbly.
At last you have a fully developed baby which you need to bring into the world. There is an orchestration of hormones which signal your body that the time is right. It’s not fully understood how this works and what causes the onset of birth, but hormones are a big part of the process.The Hormones of Labor and Birth
I find it interesting that the hormones which help birth a baby are the same hormones which help make a baby.
- Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It’s connected to sexual activity, orgasm, birth and breastfeeding.
- Beta-endorphins are naturally occurring opiates. They are natural painkillers. Your body knows it’s going to need some pain management so that’s when these hormones go into action.
- Adrenaline and noradrenaline are your fight or flight hormones. These respond to stress, cold, fear and excitement. These hormones give you the signal to push.
- Prolactin is the nesting hormone. It prepares your breasts for lactation.
So there you have it. Your amazing body at work. Your hormones are rushing around your blood stream making sure everything happens as it should.