How Pregnancy Hormones Affect The Body


How Pregnancy Hormones Affect The BodyWhat are the hormones that cause cravings during pregnancy?

The breasts go first, and then the waist and then the butt. Nobody ever tells you that you get a butt when you get pregnant. – Elle Macpherson.

Multiple hormones produced by the mother, placenta and the foetus drive and coordinate the amazing biological changes and development of the baby that occur with conception, foetal growth and birth.

The word “hormone” is derived from the Greek wordhormon” which means “to urge on or that which sets in motion”. As any mother will tell you, the nine months of pregnancy is quite a journey.

During pregnancy, there are significant changes in the mother including changes to heart and kidney function, increases in body fat and fluid retention, changes in skin and psychological changes, as well as the obvious changes to the uterus and breasts.

Basically, all organs in the mother’s body are required to increase their workload to help with the pregnancy and the development of the baby.

These maternal changes are due to hormones being produced by the mother’s glands and the placenta – hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, prolactin, renin, human chorionic gonadotropin and human placental lactogen.

We now understand that if a baby develops in an unhealthy uterine environment, this can not only lead to problems at birth, but also increased risks of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, when the baby becomes an adult.

The more we understand the changes to the mother’s body, the better the advice will be from health professionals, and the more medical treatment can help when diseases occur, all leading to better outcomes for mother and baby.

Heart and kidney function

Throughout pregnancy there is an increase in the amount of blood the heart pumps each minute. Dilation and relaxation of blood vessels, due to hormones such as oestrogen and relaxin, results in a lowering of blood pressure. There is also an increase in kidney blood flow.

Activation of the renin-angiotensin system, an important system to control normal fluid balance and blood pressure, leads to fluid retention in the pregnant mother. This can manifest as ankle and hand swelling. Despite more fluid being retained, the mother’s blood pressure normally does not rise. In fact, it falls due to the dilation of blood vessels as discussed above.

Increases in total blood volume and circulating red cells occur throughout pregnancy. This is due to a stimulation of red cell formation caused by increases in erythropoietin, a hormone secreted by the kidney that controls the number of red cells circulating in the blood.

Skin changes

Melasma blemish. (how pregnancy hormones affect the body)Melasma blemish. Wikimedia commons, CC BY

As pregnancy progresses some women notice pigmentation of the skin, often involving the face, called melasma, which fades away generally a few months after the birth.

Melasma is due to increased skin pigmentation produced by the pigment-forming cells (melanocytes).

Small dilated skin blood vessels, thought to be related to the high level of oestrogens, can develop during pregnancy and regress after birth.

Breast and uterine development

In preparation for lactation (breast feeding), breast tissue, including milk ducts, areola and nipples, increases in size due to hormones such as oestrogen, prolactin and human placental lactogen.

High oestrogen and progesterone levels during pregnancy inhibit any significant lactation. However, some women notice nipple discharge (colostrum) towards the end of pregnancy.

Following delivery, when levels of hormones such as progesterone fall, breast milk production increases and lactation occurs (the mother’s milk comes in). Prolactin levels remain high during lactation due to ongoing stimulation from suckling.

Placental hormones such as human chronic gonadotropin (the hormone that is detected in urine tests to confirm a pregnancy), human placental lactogen, placental growth hormone, oestrogen and progesterone are produced to maintain the pregnancy.

These hormones encourage foetal and uterine growth, encourage transfer of maternal nutrients for foetal fuel metabolism, and increase blood supply across the placenta to the foetus.

Increase in body fat

About half the mother’s weight gain during pregnancy is due to increases in body fat, a fuel source required for the increased demands of pregnancy and in preparation for breastfeeding, although the hormonal mechanisms for these changes are not completely understood.

The ideal weight to gain during pregnancy has recently been debated, especially in women who are overweight pre-pregnancy. Too much fat gain in pregnancy can lead to poor maternal and baby outcomes, so careful dietary advice and planning are required. It may be that women store fat more efficiently in pregnancy, so pregnant women don’t really need to be “eating for two”.

Psychological changes

Some women develop symptoms of depression during pregnancy, not just after it. (how pregnancy hormones affect the body)Some women develop symptoms of depression during pregnancy, not just after it.

Maternal mood changes during pregnancy can range from joy to anxiety to depression related to the expectations of the pregnancy, physical changes, tiredness, difficulty sleeping and worry about the pregnancy, birth and the early post-birth months.

Fluctuating hormone levels can also have impacts on mood. Post-partum depression is well recognised and it should be watched for and managed appropriately. However, some women can develop symptoms suggestive of depression during pregnancy. Medical help should be sought if these appear.

Other hormone changes

Thyroid function alters especially in the first trimester in normal pregnancy and thyroid disease is not uncommon in pregnancy. Maternal iodine requirements increase, leading to pregnant women being advised to take iodine supplements.

Resistance to insulin, the hormone that helps glucose (sugar) metabolism, leads to glucose intolerance in the second half of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs in up to 8% of pregnancies.

Significant changes occur to maternal biology, metabolism and body composition during pregnancy. Maintaining optimal maternal health is very important for a healthy outcome for mother and child.The Conversation

About The Author

Tony O'Sullivan, Head, Department of Endocrinology, St George and Sutherland Hospitals, and UNSW Medicine., UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Fertility Drug Clomiphene The Drugs During Your Prenancy

parentingAuthor: Wiliam Jems
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook

Buy Now
Editorial Review: Is clomiphene suitable for me?

Clomiphene citrate may help you conceive if:

You ovulate with irregularity or not ovulating, particularly if you have polycystic ovary syndrome.
You have unexplained infertility.
You need to stimulate the production of eggs before artificial insemination, or treatment with reproduction such as in-vitro fertilization techniques.

Depending on your fertility and your health problems, your doctor may prescribe you other drugs other than clomiphene.

Does clomiphene work also on men?

Clomiphene can also help men with a hormonal imbalance associated with a low count of sperm, or their poor quality or poor motility.

Fertility: How to Get Pregnant - Cure Infertility, Get Pregnant & Start Expecting a Baby! (Childbirth, Gynecology, Fatherhood, Natural Birth, PCOS, Ovulation, Fertility Foods Book 1)

parentingAuthor: Diana Campbell
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
Studio: Diana Campbell
Label: Diana Campbell
Publisher: Diana Campbell
Manufacturer: Diana Campbell

Buy Now
Editorial Review: 3rd Edition published May 8th 2016
Including updated, new and expanded material!

Get Pregnant and Raise a Healthy Baby – The Easy and Natural Way!

Read this book for FREE on Kindle Unlimited – Download Now!

Do you want to feel

  • Healthy?

  • Fertile?

  • Relaxed?

  • Confident?

  • and Loved?

If so, read this new, May 2016 3rd Edition of Fertility: How to Get Pregnant – Cure Infertility, Get Pregnant & Start Expecting a Baby right away! Inside, you’ll discover how the process of getting pregnant works, what causes infertility in both men and women, and how to reverse infertility by making the right lifestyle and dietary changes. It’s time to give your body what it needs to create a new little life!

Remember – You don’t need a Kindle device to read this book – Just download a FREE Kindle Reader for your computer, smartphone, or tablet!

In Fertility: How to Get Pregnant – Cure Infertility, Get Pregnant & Start Expecting a Baby, you’ll find out about the various cultural and educational perspectives on infertility. With care and compassion, this book describes the emotional problems fertility-challenged women face – and how stress is linked to infertility. With this life-changing advice, you can detoxify your body, explore alternative methods of maximizing fertility, and have the baby you’ve always dreamed of!

Don’t wait another minute – Download Fertility: How to Get Pregnant – Cure Infertility, Get Pregnant & Start Expecting a Baby right away! You’ll be so glad you did! And remember: You're worth it!

ACCESS TO FREE BONUS inside book - act now before gone!

Scroll to top of page, click the orange Buy Now Button

Clomiphene Citrate; Complete Self-Assessment Guide

parentingAuthor: G.J. Blokdijk
Binding: Paperback
Studio: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Label: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Manufacturer: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Buy Now
Editorial Review:

Where can I buy Clomiphene Citrate prescription drugs cheaper? For what reasons would I have to be off Clomiphene Citrate medication and for how long? Are there any other precautions or warnings for this Clomiphene Citrate medication? Who is eligible to receive Clomiphene Citrate prescription drug help? How do scientists determine whether the chemical compounds in Clomiphene Citrate prescription medications do what they're claimed to do?

Always talk to your doctor about Clomiphene Citrate, your condition and your treatment. But what exactly to ask your doctor to make sure you are both covering everything you need to know about Clomiphene Citrate? 'Clomiphene Citrate; Complete Self-Assessment Guide' presents readers with a whole new set of 734 pivotal questions to discuss your situation with your healthcare provider, consider your options, and help you make decisions that are right for you. 'Clomiphene Citrate; Complete Self-Assessment Guide' poses questions that Clomiphene Citrate medication users didn’t even know they needed to ask.

With lots of room to note down your doctor's answers and an extensive index, this book is a must-have for anyone who has, or is about to have, Clomiphene Citrate prescription medication, and indispensable for healthcare providers who want to make sure they are able to answer every question.


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email