The hormonal rollercoaster of pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period.
Finding out you are pregnant can be a wonderful thing. You may have planned it for months, been trying for years, or it could be a complete surprise. In the space of a three minute window and those two lines appearing; your life has changed forever. Understanding a little more about the hormonal changes you will experience during pregnancy, birth and postnatally, can help you understand more about what your body and mind is going through.
The first hormone you may feel the effects of is HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). This is produced by the placenta after implantation and doubles every 72 hours. It reaches its peak around 8-11 weeks and then will start to decline and level off. Unfortunately, HCG can produce some unwanted side effects, like nausea; or sickness. ‘Morning’ sickness is actually a bit of a myth as some women will suffer all day. If you find you are being severely sick and not able to keep anything down, even water; you may be suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum. This can be completely debilitating and often requires hospital treatment.
The levels of oestrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy. These wonderful hormones are in part responsible for the intensity and wide range of emotions you may feel. Don’t worry if you are laughing your socks off one minute, and crying in to your coffee the next. It is normal, and all part and parcel of being pregnant. These hormones are also responsible for many of the symptoms you will experience during pregnancy. Breast tenderness, increased sensitivity to smells, heart burn, bloating; to name but a few. Its glamourous being pregnant isn’t it? The increase in progesterone can also be why you can feel absolutely exhausted during the first trimester and like you could fall asleep at any moment. This should start to ease off as your body adjusts to the hormone levels towards the second trimester.
You may feel happy, elated, anxious, depressed, worried and many more emotions in between during your pregnancy. Some women are more sensitive to the hormonal changes than others. Antenatal Depression is very real, with Tommy’s charity suggesting it affects around 1 in 10 pregnant women. If at any point your emotions become difficult to deal with; speak to your family, partner, midwife or GP. However, please know that it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions during pregnancy and you should feel free to blame anything and everything on those pesky hormones!
The hormone oxytocin helps prepare the body to give birth. This hormone is affectionately referred to as the love hormone and is responsible for making us feel good when we hug, kiss or make love. It acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain and stimulates the contractions which cause the cervix to dilate. It also helps the baby move down the birth canal, to birth the placenta and also limit bleeding at the site of the placenta. Amazing. It’s not my favourite hormone for nothing! Low levels of oxytocin can mean the contractions may slow, or stop and become less efficient. To keep oxytocin levels high, it is important to remain relaxed and calm, limit disturbances and keep the atmosphere peaceful and serene, in order to keep adrenaline levels low. Finding out more about how your body works during labour can have a powerful effect on the way you feel about your birth experience.
Your baby is here! Congratulations. Although, the rollercoaster doesn’t end yet. The postnatal period can be one of immense joy, but also comes with a realisation at the sudden responsibility for your little one. I am a huge believer in the 4th trimester, and it being a period of adjustment for both you and your baby. Those same hormones are still lingering post birth and are responsible for your mood swings between overwhelming happiness one second, to crying because you can’t find your slippers the next. Or falling apart at the seams because your partner brought you Maltesers instead of Smarties; I mean seriously, how hard is it?! Over the first week, you may experience what is referred to as the ‘baby blues’ where you feel very teary and emotional. This is normal. If however, the feelings last for much longer, do seek support if you need it. The build-up of pregnancy hormones means your hair can become thick, lush and shiny during pregnancy. Around three months post birth, you will regrettably start to lose your gorgeous locks.
The hormonal rollercoaster you embark on when you find out your pregnant can be amazing, exciting, thrilling and downright terrifying at times. Jump on, and enjoy the ride!
(Contributed by our Cheshire teacher Chloe Sena)