The word “hormones” gets tossed around a lot during pregnancy, but what exactly is the reason behind the tears at the Kleenex commercial or the flash of anger you feel when your hubby brings home chocolate chip ice cream when you specifically asked for mint chocolate chip?
Jokes about hormonal women abound—think, most recently, of the movie Knocked Up—but they exist for good reason. Wild hormones are a way of life for mommies-to-be. Growing a baby requires our bodies to make some serious changes. Keeping your precious cargo safe and developing him into a healthy 9-pound being in 9 months is a full-time job, requiring the body to produce extra hormones to make all of these accommodations.
All good for baby; not so good for you, who gets to experience some serious mood swings, fatigue so severe you feel like you may fall asleep standing up and morning sickness that comes even in the middle of the night and wakes you from an already fitful sleep, also courtesy of those hormones. Hormones can take you from fearful: “What have I done? I’m not ready to have a baby!,” to elated: “We’re bringing life into this wonderful world!,” to depressed: “I look like a whale, everyone thinks I’m fat and if I throw up one more time, I quit!,” and back again, and again, and again.
So what’s causing this roller coaster of emotions? Blame it on a host of hormones coursing through the body, some of which you’ve had in small doses before the pregnancy, and some only making an appearance during these special nine months, give or take a few months postpartum. The biggest culprits:
Estrogen. The same hormone that causes your mood swings once a month prior to pregnancy is a factor during pregnancy, as well. While it aids in the development of female sexual characteristics, extra estrogen increases blood flow, giving you that pregnancy glow. It’s also the reason your breasts may be sore and grow larger during pregnancy. (The upside of hormones!)
Progesterone. Progesteone is needed to thicken the lining of the uterus to become a soft place for a fertilized egg to grow, and its role in pregnancy is a good one—it helps prevent premature labor. However, it’s also the reason you may experience heartburn and ingestion, and feel hot even when it’s freezing outside.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG). This special hormone is only produced during pregnancy, and the addition of this hormone not often found in the body is said to be the cause of the morning sickness many pregnant women experience. As the body gets used to the hormone, morning sickness begins to fade.
Human Placental Lactogen (HPL). An important addition to our bodies, this hormone helps stimulate milk glands for breastfeeding and plays a major role in fetal development.