Understand Pregnancy Hormones

Pregnancy hormones are chemicals that circulate within the body and flows through the bloodstream when a mother is expecting. They have different roles, variety of functions, convey message from one body part to another as they create and form a human being.


Luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones

Before the pregnancy hormones set in, the luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones come first.

Both hormones are produced in the central nervous system and secreted by the pituitary gland; they play a significant role in maturing the ovaries (in women) and testes (in men).

Surprisingly, they are inactive during the course of the process, these hormones are responsible in altering a woman’s state by doing the following functions below:

Luteinizing hormones

Pregnancy week by week

Luteinizing hormones (LH) is secreted by gonadotrophic cells of the anterior pituitary gland. The presence and surging levels of LH is responsible for the following during pregnancy:

  • Triggers ovulation
  • Develops the corpus luteum, cyst in the ovary

Follicle stimulating hormones

Follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) is a gonadotrophin – a group of hormones secreted by the pituitary gland which stimulates the gonads, and produced by gonadotropic cells. FSH is responsible for the following during pregnancy:

  • Regulates the reproductive processes in the body
  • Plays a key role in fetal growth and development
  • Pubertal maturation

Progesterone and estrogen hormone

Progesterone and estrogen plays a major role in pregnancy, these are considered as the pregnancy hormones.

Progesterone is secreted when the corpus luteum is stimulated few days after the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. During the 1st trimester, the levels of progesterone rapidly rise then they raised ground. It continues to pump up progesterone until the 10th week of gestation. When the placenta is fully developed, it continues the production.

On the other hand, estrogen is also secreted by the same corpus luteum and the production continues once the placenta has fully developed. Once the 1st trimester has ended, the body has higher levels of estrogen circulating from within, and then the levels raised ground.

  • Function

Progesterone does the following functions:

  • Relaxes the uterine muscles
  • Plays a significant role in the immune system by adapting foreign deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that is, the fetus
  • Helps in the expansion of uterus by inhibiting the smooth muscles from contracting

In addition to that, estrogen does the following functions:

  • Plays a significant role in the development of internal organs and bodily systems
  • Stimulates the fetal adrenal gland to produce hormones
  • Rouses growth of the adrenal gland
  • Enhances the uterus and enables it to respond oxytocin
  • Some mother – to – be’s are lucky enough to experience pregnancy bloom (that is, a youthful glow and shiny hair)
  • Downside

The downside of pregnancy hormones (progesterone and estrogen combined)

  • Breast tenderness and sensitivity
  • Hyperosmia (heightened sense of smell)
  • Pregnancy – induced heartburn – the instances of heartburn are highly likely during the latter months of gestation. This is due to the shifted gear functioning of the lower esophageal sphincter
  • Bowel distension
  • Burping, bloating, gassiness
  • Hip and pubic bone pain

The downside of the presence of progesterone

  • Smooth muscle contraction and relaxation – progesterone relaxes all the smooth muscles especially the uterine muscle walls
  • Unwanted hair growth, especially on the breasts and lower part of the abdomen
  • Vasodilation (relaxation of the blood vessels)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Dizziness
  • Colon congestion
  • Over – fatigue

The downside of the presence of estrogen

  • Visible varicose veins
  • Polyphagia (increased appetite or excessive hunger)
  • Skin discoloration

Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy

Hormones during the course of pregnancy help regulate the body’s changes taking over to ensure that the unborn baby will be born safely. With that being said, below are the following functions and downside of some significant pregnancy hormones in the body:

Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG)

Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (widely known and abbreviated as hCG) is found in the urine and blood, it is the first hormone present right after conception (approximately 8 days after). hCG is produced by what eventually becomes the placenta, this pregnancy hormone circulates within the body and is eliminated by urine.

hCG is also called as the announcer of pregnancy. This is because the high concentration of beta hCG determines if a woman is expecting or not by means of a blood and/or home pregnancy test kit.

The levels of hCG doubles up every two days until it reaches the 10th week of gestation [and reaches its peak during 60 – 90 days], drops down slightly, and tapers off for the remaining journey. In a like manner, the hormone also chugs through the bloodstream of mothers carrying multiples (twins, triplets, and the like).

  • Function
    • Signals the body to build a home for the growing life form in the uterus
    • Inhibits the monthly production of egg cells in the ovaries
    • Maintains the healthy levels of pregnancy hormones (estrogen and progesterone)
  • Downside
  • Morning sickness – due to the rapid rise of hCG levels. As a matter of fact, research show that the symptom usually subsides as the hCG level drops
  • Nausea and vomiting – occurs due to the surging levels of hCG
  • Frequent urination – hCG causes the blood levels to surge in the pelvis, which in turn, makes a bladder sensitive. When a bladder is sensitive, its tendency is to eliminate the lightest amount of urine possible which results to frequent urination
  • Prone to cold and flu – this is so since hCG suppresses the immune system which lessens the chance that the body will reject the foreign DNA


  • Function
  • Expands the cervix
  • Stimulates the milk ducts and nipples to produce colostrum (precursor to breastmilk)
  • As the pregnancy progresses, the presence of oxytocin makes the uterus sensitive and responsive to the hormone
  • Downside
    • Oxytocin has no proposed downside


Prolactin (PRL) is a milk – producing hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. This hormone surges 10 – 20 times during gestation.

  • Function
    • Has a tranquilizing effect to the mother – to – be
    • Prepares the breast tissues for lactation and for the upcoming feeding sessions
  • Downside
  • Prolactin has no proposed downside.


Relaxin is secreted by the ovary. The production is continued once the placenta is fully developed.

  • Function
    • Loosens up the ligaments in the pelvis, shoulders, knees, hips, ankles
    • Softens and enlarges the cervix
    • Relaxes the uterine muscles in preparation for labor and vaginal delivery
  • Downside

Relaxin has no proposed downside.

Emotional fluctuations during pregnancy

Emotional fluctuation is a common symptom during pregnancy, due to the hormonal fluxes that affect the levels of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers of the brain).

Most mothers – to – be have reported that mood swings flare up around 6- 10 weeks of gestation, tapers down in the 2nd semester, then recurs as the estimated due date approaches.

Pregnancy hormones recognize emotional triggers. They can cause a mother – to – be to experience a spiral of emotions such as sadness, happiness, anger, confusion, reacting to fear of danger with the “fight or flight” response, and the like.

These changes vary from woman to woman. Some mothers – to – be experience extreme emotions – both good and bad.

Some feel depressed and constantly wondering with the following negativities below:

  • What she have gotten herself into that is, being pregnant
  • Overthinks if she will be a good mother or not
  • Stresses about the future expenses that is, how much adding a child in the household will cost and how it will affect the family’s finances
  • Worries if the baby will turn out healthy (no disabilities and severe medical conditions)
  • Worries how her relationship with her husband and children will affect – whether she will still be able to give them the amount of attention they need

On the other hand, some mothers – to – be feel happy on the mere thought of having a baby in just a couple of weeks / months. In line with this, the happy feeling during pregnancy is caused by the hormone below:


Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system and secreted by the pituitary gland.

  • Function
    • Triggers a good feeling to the body
    • Diminishes the perception of pain
  • Downside

Endorphin has no proposed downside

Managing mood swings caused by pregnancy hormones

With the fluctuation of emotions during pregnancy, enlisted below are the following ways to manage mood swings:

Take things easy

Do the best to resist the symptom called “nesting instinct” during pregnancy. Instead, a mother – to – be must pamper herself before sleepless nights and tiresome days of nursing a newborn begins.

Bond with the husband

Bonding with the husband and reassuring him that he is still loved despite of the mood swings help him avoid taking the emotional upheaval seriously.

Ensure that the relationship and the times while expecting the baby are well – spent. Strengthen the relationship bond to have a firm foundation once the baby arrives.

As for single mothers, nurture and spend most of the time with family, relatives, and friends. Surround oneself with happiness and positivity, it will provide vital support to prepare her for the challenges of raising a child alone.

Spend time doing stress – relieving activities

To ensure that every second of the time before the baby’s arrival is well – spent, spend some time doing stress – relieving activities. Especially for mother – to – be’s who feel depressed and anxious.

Decompress stress

Decompress stress and mood swings rather than keeping and piling them up inside. Find ways to decompress by doing the following activities enlisted below:

  • Get plenty of a good night sleep
  • Eat well and healthy
  • Engage in moderate exercises such as pre – natal yoga class, swimming and the like
  • Do some relaxation techniques like pre – natal massages, aromatherapies, meditation
  • Have some fun with family, relatives, and friends
  • Sort out the sources of stress and solve each of it
  • If a mother – to – be is having a hard time decompressing stress alone, consult a professional counselor

Talk about mood swings with the husband

Keeping a constant and consistent communication with the husband is key during the surge of mood swings.