What to Do About Hormones During Pregnancy?

June 23, 2008

‘Maria is just not the old Maria. She is lost in her own world. At times she is upset with the smallest of things. Yesterday, when our boss told her to spend more time in office, she took it as one of the most serious comments in her professional life and just could not control her tears. That’s not all, I have seen her shouting and yelling on her husband many times on the phone. Earlier she used to be patient enough to wait or the right time to discuss matters, yelling was not her forte. All this stress and tension has even perhaps zeroed on her appetite. She pukes only on the sight of food. I hope everything is all right with her on the personal front.’

My concern about Maria only increased when she threw a party to celebrate her happiness…she had conceived. Now, I was more conscious about her well being but the only difference was that now I was not worried I was cautious for her.

Pregnancy is a bundle of happenings in the body. Puking, tension, emotional drain, confusions, pain, stretch marks, restlessness, body size changes and a myriad of other symptoms are just a part of what goes on in the pregnant body. This write up is with an objective of understanding the scientific causes of symptoms of pregnancy. It is the hormones in the human body during pregnancy which alter the physiology and give shape to a new life – the baby.

Right from the stage when the fertilised egg implants itself to the uterine lining somewhere after ten to fifteen days after the last menstrual cycle, hormones start their action. It is the hormone which is liberated from the fertilised ovum that prevents the rupture of the uterine lining which needs to be prevented for the life of the new embryo. This hormone is nothing but the reproductive hormone – oestrogen.

 This oestrogen has a partner in form of progesterone. It is this hormone which relaxes the smooth muscles of the uterus and hence avoids the complication of premature labour. In its absence, even the slightest excitement or impact on the lower abdomen can cause the contractions of the uterus to be stimulated. This may lead to premature delivery and hence is threatening for the mother and the child. However there is always another side to this coin. The relaxation of this smooth muscles has impact on the other muscles of the abdomen including the ones involved in the propulsion of wastes outwards from the large intestine. The progesterone stops the action of driving the waste outwards since the smooth muscles are relaxed. This leads to constipation, a sign seen from middle pregnancy.

Prolactin is another hormone which marks motherhood. It is this hormone which is responsible for the production of milk in the breasts for the new born for his/her development. Before delivery of the young one, the effect of oestrogen and progesterone don’t allow the milk to be produced in the breasts but these glands are already preparing for the milk secretion. This is seen in form enlarged breasts, darkened nipples and prominent blood supplies on the outer folds of the skin.

Nothing much can be done on the impact of these hormones in the pregnant body. After all they are working for a noble cause. But many other complications and effects of pregnancy can be avoided if precautions and care is taken. One such complication is on account of the higher workload on the heart. Since the blood volume increases manifold in the woman’s body, the heart pumps out more blood and hence is over worked. Similarly the blood vessels are also carrying a higher blood volume to different sites in the body. This may lead to hypertension, varicose veins and other complications. This can be avoided by taking adequate rest, lifting the legs against gravity upwards to lower the downward drive of blood and performing yogic exercises to calm the mind and relieve the heart of further stress.

It is to be noted that it is only the blood volume which increases and the RBC count remains same as its initial pre-pregnancy count. This causes anaemia and hence it is more important for the mother to take an iron rich diet to prevent iron deficiency in the child.

Some suggestions for the benefit of healthy pregnancy are:

1. Get adequate sleep of at least 8-10 hours a day. 2. Perform light exercises which don’t stretch muscles too much. 3. Yoga or meditation to calm the mind is beneficial. 4. Eat as often as you can and don’t work towards over eating. 5. Consume more of proteins and vitamins along with fibres even if you have to substitute a meal of carbohydrates. 6. Don’t be carried away by your figure because you are sacrificing it for a noble cause. Once the more important objective of your life is achieved, your figure can be regained. 7. Visit your gynaecologist for any problems or complications.

Additional Reading

Hormones in Pregnancy

Ayurvedic Care During Pregnancy

All Natural Products for Women's Health