Your hormones in pregnancy

We know hormones change when you're expecting a baby. Here's how they can affect you during pregnancy

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Here are the hormones that will affect you during your pregnancy, labour and birth

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Progesterone

What’s its function?

To relax the smooth muscle in your womb and stimulate breast tissue growth.

What does it affect?

Pretty much everything! It’s the main cause of tiredness, and can cause bloating, acid reflux, breast tenderness and hip pain.

When does it kick in?

At the start of pregnancy, peaking before birth.

How long will it last?

Your energy levels should return by the second trimester.

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG)

What’s its function?

To maintain levels of oestrogen and progesterone.

What does it affect?

Your tummy. It causes morning sickness and makes you need to wee more.

When does it kick in?

Straight away, and rises in first 12 weeks.

How long will it last?

Usually peaks around weeks 8 to 10, after which you should feel that pregnancy ‘bloom’.

Oestrogen

What’s its function?

To help the foetus and milk glands develop.

What does it affect?

Everything. It gives you that flushed glow, magnifies your emotions and also increases your sense of smell.

When does it kick in?

It’s produced by the placenta throughout pregnancy.

How long will it last?

Symptoms will lessen in the second trimester, and levels fall immediately after birth.

Oxytocin

What’s its function?

To start contractions, start milk production, and induce bonding with your newborn.

What does it affect?

Contractions and your milk flow.

When does it kick in?

During labour itself.

How long will it last?

Oxytocin levels fall directly after birth.

Prolactin

What’s its function?

Prepares your body for breastfeeding.

What does it affect?

Your breasts and milk production.

When does it kick in?

It’s present throughout the entire pregnancy.

How long will it last?

Levels remain high for 2 weeks after birth, and breastfeeding further stimulates prolactin production, enabling you to lactate.

It also helps to suppress menstruation.

Relaxin

What’s its function?

To soften the cervix and ligaments, so as to accommodate growth.

What does it affect?

Your joints.

When does it kick in?

Just after ovulation, peaking during the first trimester.

How long will it last?

Effects will stay with you until after the birth itself.

Mum’s story

“My nose magically blocked up!”

“Having miraculously avoided morning sickness, I felt great through most of my pregnancy. I tend to get a bad back and even this wasn’t so bad in pregnancy, I think because the hormonal changes can affect you either way.

“However, bang on the 16-week mark, I got a snuffly nose. For about a week I thought I was coming down with a cold and then I read that it can be down to hormonal changes! I had it right up until I had Lucas, which was so weird. It wasn’t really uncomfortable, just odd to know that my body was affected like that!”

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Della, 34, mum to Lucas, 14 months

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