Pregnancy Hormones: It’s Not Just Mood Swings
A lot of people associate pregnancy hormones with mood swings, and maybe a few physical symptoms like nausea, bloatedness and having to pee more. Of course, anyone who knows the complicated nature of the endocrine system knows that hormones affect far more. During pregnancy, the human body produces more hormones than in its entire non-pregnant existence combined-including puberty! Below are some conditions that hormones can cause or aggravate during pregnancy.
Hormones can cause your digestive system to slow down or speed up, causing a lot of issues. Early in pregnancy, progesterone levels raise and then peak during the second trimester. Progesterone causes most digestive issues associated with pregnancy, like constipation, acid reflux, heartburn, and other symptoms of GERD. In the third trimester of pregnancy, diarrhea is common, as levels of the hormone relaxin increase and the body prepares for labor.
Progesterone levels rising also causes blood vessels to relax. This combines with other blood flow changes caused by pregnancyto result in varicose veins and other vein conditions. Sometimes this can be temporary or resolved by lifestyle changes, but pregnant women with prominent varicose veins should consult their doctor to see if treatment may be needed post-pregnancy. While varicose veins often resolve themselves, if left unchecked, they could develop into hyperpigmentation or venous ulcers. Checking early and taking preventative measures like exercising and moving the legs often will help prevent this temporary hormone issue from becoming something more serious.
Of course, hormones do affect the chemical levels in your brains, which leads to symptoms of depression. Many people experience severe depression during or after pregnancy. This is due to a combination of hormone fluctuations and the very tangible changes happening in the parent-to-be’s lives. It’s important that nurses, midwives, and other medical staff are trained to recognize signs of depression in patients and can provide the resources needed to restore hormone balance.
Regulating Hormones During Pregnancy
Many of the dietary restrictions and suggestions that doctors offer for pregnancy are meant to help regulate hormones. This is why it’s suggested to avoid synthetic fats and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable, canola, and soybean oils. Real butter and coconut oil provide more nutrients and are healthier fats for your hormone production. This is also why coffee is usually on the “do not consume” list, as caffeine puts stress on your endocrine system.
Besides avoiding problem foods, you should also focus on eating healthy whole foods that contain vital nutrients. There are also many supplement options that are safe during pregnancy, though you should always consult your medical professional before making important health decisions, especially during pregnancy.
Adequate sleep and light workouts also help promote hormonal balance. Basically, the healthier you are on a daily basis, the more energy your body can put into regulating hormones, rather than fighting off exhaustion or attacks on a weakened immune system.
Hormones can be complicated to understand, but during pregnancy, it’s important that medical professionals can properly communicate common changes in hormones and recognize signs of abnormal hormone fluctuations. This is one of the many reasons that women’s health matters, and scientific studies into the causes of hormone fluctuation continue to be researched and funded. For example, it’s still unknown whether hCG, a hormone found early in pregnancy, is responsible for morning sickness or not. Answers to questions like these could help make pregnancy safer for everyone.
Jeriann blogs about books, life, and her random thoughts at dairyairhead.com. She's recently noticed an increase in how many miscommunications and misunderstandings her friends and family members have with their doctors regarding their healthcare. She hopes that by writing about these experiences and health issues, people can be inspired to be more informed about their bodies and health.