Childbirth provides an immense hormonal roller coaster for women. From conception to post birth a woman’s body must deal with an abundance of hormones that assist in sustaining a pregnancy to birthing and feeding a new-born.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). Released from conception it gains in quantity for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy when it reaches its peak. HCG is well-known to disrupt other hormones and affects mood, it might be why you feel a bit fed up. It’s responsible for morning sickness and altering taste and smell.
Oestrogen swells to up to 100 times more during pregnancy and is the female hormone responsible for your baby’s organ development. It can result in headaches and more vaginal mucus production and plays a part in your emotions and mood.
Progesterone relaxes joints and muscles to prepare your pelvis for birthing and give room to allow your baby develop and grow. It can make you hotter than normal resulting in “night sweats”. Your progesterone level won’t drop until your cycle returns to normal post-birth. Progesterone is at its highest during pregnancy and when your baby is born, it drops rapidly which can sometimes lead to irritability, sleep deprivation and feelings of restlessness.
Relaxin kicks in during pregnancy which loosens your joints and ligaments. Relaxin can cause symphysis pubis dysfunction (swelling over your pubic bone), low back and hip ache and carpal tunnel syndrome (pain in your thumb and wrist) a maternity women’s health physio or specialist massage therapist can help to alleviate some of these conditions.
What is the role of Oxytocin during childbirth?
The bonding hormone Oxytocin is released during pregnancy. It is responsible for nesting later in pregnancy which is why you might find yourself furiously cleaning and tidying your home before the birth of your baby. Oxytocin also causes your uterus to contract to cope with labour pain and produces milk when you’re ready to breast feed. Along with Oxytocin, Prolactin, the milk producing hormone prepares your breasts for breast feeding. Once you give birth it increases by up to 20 times which results in breast tenderness. The level remains high until you stop breast feeding.
Along with these childbearing hormones there are other regulatory substances secreted by your brain and other organs that are responsible for maintaining balance (homeostasis) within your body. With the huge impact pregnancy, childbirth and recovery afterwards place on your body, there are some steps you can take balance these chemical messengers.
What are the effects of sugar on the body?
What we put on and into our body, our environment and how we deal with stress all impact on how are hormones are regulated. One of the biggest influencing substance to our hormones is blood sugar levels. Overeating on sugar can cause many imbalances in the body causing energy highs and lows, cravings for sugar and caffeine, problems staying awake or falling asleep as well as mood swings and depression,
Foods that cause a huge spike in your blood sugar are foods that are processed and has sugar added to it as well as rice, bread, pasta, potatoes and high glycaemic fruits such as mango and pineapple.
Your blood sugar goes up and your pancreas responds by releasing insulin to transport the sugar into your cells so you have energy to do all that you do.
A consistent excess of insulin in your body is where the problems begin. Insulin is a powerful hormone that if disrupted will lead to further hormone imbalances.
When insulin levels go up, so do cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Cortisol competes with progesterone for the same receptors. Unfortunately, cortisol always wins this fight. So, progesterone often goes down, eventually leaving you in a state of progesterone deficiency or estrogenic dominance – think PMS, PCOS, Endometriosis, Fibroids, heavy and painful periods, migraines, depression, anxiety, acne…and the list goes on.
There are insulin receptors on the ovaries so excess insulin causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone rather than the normal estradiol and estrone they usually make.
This excess testosterone can cause your ovaries to malfunction, which can lead to sporadic ovulation or lack of ovulation. Think PCOS and all the symptoms that come with it, irregular periods, and Amenorrhea (no period for three or more months).
High insulin also lowers Sex Hormone Binding Globulin. SHBG binds up testosterone so that it’s not all available at once. When SHBG goes down, it allows freer testosterone into the bloodstream and this can trigger even more issues.
So, as you can see, just about every cell in your body is affected by too much insulin. This link between too much insulin and your sex hormones, is why hormonal imbalances always improve when you eat to stabilise your blood sugar.
If you have any questions about hormones during pregnancy, feel free to post them in the comments below or why not book a one to one with Nina?