So you are pregnant and everything you ever hear about is the pregnancy hormones. Acne ? Oh, it’s the hormones. Body ache? Don’t worry those are just the pregnancy hormones. Frequent bursts of crying and ecstasy? That is just hormonal mood swings. Hormones, Hormones, and Hormones.
It’s true that pregnancy hormones are to blame for all these myriad of things going on with you both mentally and physically. But it’s also crucial to know that how these hormones are working to provide a safe and comfortable childbirth for you as well as your baby.
Here is a guide to some of the most important players.
FSH or Follicle stimulating hormone:
It is one of the many hormones secreted by your pituitary gland. FSH stimulates your ovaries and produces a mature egg each month. Women who have fraternal twins or are above 35 have higher FSH levels. Since FSH hormone is responsible for releasing the egg in the fallopian tube, the more the FSH, more eggs will be released making these two types of women more likely to have twins.
It is generally present in the first cascade of hormones which are responsible for kickstarting your pregnancy. It’s necessary to have sustainable levels of FSH to get pregnant.
During pregnancy, the FSH remains inactive.
LH or Luteinizing hormone:
LH works in conjunction with FSH and is responsible for regulating both ovulation and menstrual cycle. Distortion in LH and FSH levels are also major indicators of PCOS.
LH levels increase just before ovulation is about to start and this surge is responsible for egg release. LH level is what gives a positive on ovulation stick.
During pregnancy, LH remains inactive just like it’s counterpart. As soon as LH production starts decreasing another hormone called HCG starts to increase which is released by the new placenta. HCG is the hormone which is detected on the pregnancy stick.
Both HCG and LH are glycoproteins and have a similar structure. A standard ovulation test doesn’t distinguish between HCG and LH levels. So if you test positive on an ovulation stick even after missing a period then you are, as a matter of fact, PREGNANT.
HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin:
HCG is one of the first hormones released as soon as your pregnancy starts. As mentioned above, this hormone is responsible for the positive sign on your pregnancy stick. HCG’s basic job is to tell the body that there is a human life that’s about to grow inside of it so get ready for the changes. It also tells the ovaries to shut down the process of developing a maturing egg each month.
This is the only hormone which is present in your body only during pregnancy. It’s found in your blood and urine which explains why blood and urine tests in conjunction are surety of pregnancy.
Here a few quick things you need to know about HCG:
- HCG is secreted by the new placenta. This secretion also helps to maintain the corpus luteum (thickened lining of the uterus which breaks down during menstruation) during the beginning of pregnancy. Corpus luteum, in turn, secretes two crucial hormones called progesterone and estrogen in the beginning of pregnancy. During the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the placental cells can’t secrete the progesterone and estrogen and therefore this network of HCG is pivotal in the beginning.
- HCG is responsible for increasing the blood supply to the pelvis which causes sensitivity of bladder. It might result in you wanting to release even the tiniest amounts of urine. This condition will ease after the first trimester but it will return by the end of the pregnancy when your baby’s weight starts pushing on the bladder.
- HCG has also been linked with developing nausea or morning sickness. The morning sickness doesn’t always occur in the morning. The term is just misleading. It will, however, have a specific duration of the day. Eg. if you feel nauseated in the evening then you will get it in the evening for the rest of your first trimester. Morning sickness peaks after about a month or two and then ease as soon as you transition into the third trimester.
- Levels of HCG occur in the blood about 11-12 days after conception and the urine in about 12-14 days after conception. The levels of HCG doubles every 72 hours and reaches the peak at about 2 months of pregnancy. Since HCG is linked with morning sickness you will get the worst nausea at this time.
- HCG gets circulated and comes out of your body when you urinate. And it’s the most concentrated in the morning urine. Since HCG is responsible for showing positive on the pregnancy test, it’s best to take a pregnancy test in the morning without having any fluids.
- An ultrasound can be performed to show the gestational sac after the HCG levels have reached to 1000 IU/ml which will happen around 1 month of pregnancy.
- Multiple testing of HCG is done to find out how healthy your pregnancy is progressing and to know about any risk of miscarrying. So you might have to make a few frequent visits to your GYN/OB.
- No medications such as antibiotics, contraception etc. have an effect on the levels of HSG. False positives might occur if you have cancer or an early miscarriage.
- A low HCG level can mean a number of things and the result should be checked within 48-72 hours. A low HCG can indicate
- miscalculation of pregnancy dating,
- possible miscarriage,
- Blighted ovum – When a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus but doesn’t develop or stops developing at a very early stage.It occurs within the first trimester and most of the time when the woman is not even aware of her pregnancy. You might even get a positive pregnancy test but this is one of the rare cases of the false alarm.
- Ectopic Pregnancy – Another rare pregnancy condition with fewer than 1 million cases in India in a year. Symptoms include pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding and lack of menstrual period. It happens when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. The fetus can’t grow anywhere except the uterus and if it does begin to grow it might harm the surrounding organs and cause life-threatening loss of blood.
- A high level of HCG can again demand a retest. It can also indicate one of the following things:
- Miscalculation of pregnancy dating,
- Molar pregnancy – When the tissue that becomes a fetus instead experiences abnormal growth in the uterus. This growth is rapid than the normal fetal growth. This growth triggers pregnancy type symptoms. Symptoms include painless vaginal bleeding and more vomiting than usual. All the tissues need to be removed medically from the uterus of the woman as even a single tissue can cause a lot of complications.
- Multiple pregnancies – More than 2 babies in the uterus.
All in all LH and FSH are the ones which are responsible for implantation & gestation and HCG is the one that is responsible for kickstarting the pregnancy.
Read about estrogen and progesterone here.