Hormones and Pregnancy

Hormones Levels During Pregnancy

HCG

First detected by urine pregnancy tests 12 to 14 days after conception, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is produced by cells that form the placenta. Typically, hCG levels double every 48 to 72 hours, peaking eight to 11 weeks into your pregnancy before leveling off. Your body’s level of the hCG hormone plays a key role in allowing your obstetrician or midwife to check the health of your pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, low levels of hCG in your blood could indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, whereas high levels of hCG in your blood could signify a multiple pregnancy or a molar pregnancy.

Progesterone

Initially produced by the corpus luteum (follicle that released your egg), progesterone plays a key role in preparing your uterus for the implantation of the fertilized egg. Following the first eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the placenta takes over progesterone production, which must be continued throughout pregnancy in order to help your body maintain the pregnancy. Progesterone production increases until right before birth and is responsible for keeping uterine contractions from occurring, decreasing prostaglandins and stimulating breast growth. The rapid decrease of progesterone right before birth helps trigger the uterus to begin contractions.

Estrogen

Similar to progesterone, estrogen is mostly produced by the placenta and increases in production throughout the duration of your pregnancy. Not only does estrogen help regulate your body’s levels of progesterone, but it also contributes to the development of your unborn baby, triggering the growth of important organs such as the liver, lungs and kidneys. According to PaternityAngel.Com, estrogen also maintains healthy blood flow in your uterus and contributes to the development of your baby’s reproductive organs and sexual characteristics.

Relaxin and Oxytocin

As your pregnancy progresses, your body’s production of relaxin and oxytocin, two key hormones that affect your labor and delivery, also increase. Relaxin completes the twofold job of relaxing your pelvic ligaments and enlarging your cervix opening during labor. However, it also relaxes ligaments throughout the rest of your body, which can result in muscle and back pain. Your body’s production of oxytocin peaks right before labor, which combined with the decrease in progesterone, results in uterine contractions. This hormone plays such a key role in the progression of your labor that women going through slow labors are often given injections of oxytocin to speed things up.

Considerations

Following labor and delivery, hormone levels decrease drastically, which can cause strong mood swings, irritability and fatigue. According to the Mayo Clinic, although many women just experience the “baby blues,” mild mood swings and feelings of fatigue, some women go on to develop postpartum depression or postnatal psychosis, serious postpartum conditions that need treatment.

How long after conception can you tell if you are pregnant?

Conception

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the egg implants into the uterus six to twelve days after ovulation. After implantation, the body begins to produce the pregnancy hormone, hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), which is what pregnancy tests detect to indicate a positive result. The hormone level doubles every 48 to 72 hours throughout the first trimester.

Home Pregnancy Tests

The American Pregnancy Association states that home pregnancy test are 97% accurate when used correctly. Although many tests indicate you can test as soon as five days before your next period, the most accurate results will be obtained after you have missed your period and the earliest a test can provide an accurate reading is 14 days after conception. Tests differ in sensitivity in detecting hCG in the urine. When the egg implanted in the uterus determines how early hCG will be built up in the system enough to produce a positive result. You can test early and possibly get a positive result. However, if the result is negative, wait until you miss your period and test again as the results will be more accurate at that time.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are performed in doctors offices and detect the level of hCG in the blood. Blood tests are generally more sensitive than urine tests and can detect a pregnancy earlier than urine tests. However, most doctors will not perform a blood test until you have missed your period to reduce the possibility of a false result.

Charting

If you are charting your cycles to predict ovulation, you may have another indicator of pregnancy. Basal body temperature has a sudden rise after ovulation and remains steady until menstruation starts when it drops back to pre-ovulation levels. Some women will experience a second spike in basal body temperature after ovulation when implantation occurs. If this second spike is maintained and you have been accurately taking and recording your temperature each morning, this may be an indication of pregnancy even before you miss your period.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Some women experience pregnancy symptoms before a missed period beginning as early as when implantation occurs. Early pregnancy symptoms can include morning sickness, a strong aversion to certain smells, increased breast tenderness and increased urinary frequency. Though these symptoms do not apply exclusively to pregnancy, they can be an early sign that successful conception has occurred.

How to Avoid Constipation While Pregnant

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. According to the American Pregnancy Association, you should drink 10 to 12 cups of hydrating fluids each day. If the weather is hot and humid or you have been sweating, consume more water. The water aids your digestion and keeps wastes moving through your system. Fill a water bottle and carry it with you, taking sips when you get thirsty.

Incorporate plenty of fiber into your diet. Choose foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes to keep food moving through your system. Limit the amount of binding foods that you consume, as these have the opposite effect. Bananas, rice and applesauce are considered low-fiber, binding foods and these will make your stools firmer and harder to pass.

Get some exercise. Not only will this help you feel better and raise your energy levels during pregnancy, it also helps stimulate your digestion and helps prevent constipation. Shoot for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week. Swimming, walking and prenatal yoga are all safe choices during pregnancy. (ref 1)

Talk to your health care provider about the prenatal vitamins you are taking. Some prenatal vitamins contain iron and iron supplements can have the unpleasant side effect of constipation. Switching to a different prenatal vitamin or eliminating iron-containing vitamins altogether can help alleviate this issue.

Consult your health care provider about the use of fiber supplements and/or stool softeners. This can temporarily resolve the issue.

Things You Will Need

  • Fiber-rich foods
  • Prenatal vitamins
  • Fiber supplements and/or stool softeners, if recommended by a health care provider

Tip

Don't take laxatives while pregnant, unless approved by your health care provider. These can stimulate uterine contractions and make you dehydrated.

What Goes on at the First Prenatal Visit After Pregnancy Is Confirmed?

Physical Exam

After administering a urine test to confirm your pregnancy, your doctor gives you a physical exam. This includes measuring your weight, height and blood pressure. She may also give you a pelvic exam, including a pap smear, to check your cervical health and assess the size of your uterus. It's unlikely that you will receive an ultrasound at your first visit, but your doctor may use a Doppler to hear the baby's heartbeat. However, she may perform an ultrasound if you have risk factors, such as problems with previous pregnancies.

Blood Tests

Your first visit includes a blood draw so that your doctor can run various tests. These tests may include determining your blood type, your blood count, your platelet count and your Rh factor. "Rh factor" refers to whether or not you carry the Rhesus protein. The National Institutes of Health says that if you are negative but the father is positive, your pregnancy would require special care. Your doctor also tests you for sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, and may recommend genetic testing for disorders such as cystic fibrosis. Your urine sample is also be tested for signs of infection.

Health History

Your doctor takes a complete health history at your first prenatal visit to determine if you have any risk factors for your pregnancy. For example, she may ask about any health conditions you may have now or had in the past, any diseases or health conditions your family members have or had in the past, any previous pregnancies you've had and any vitamins or medications that you are currently taking. It's important to provide your doctor with as much information as possible, since your health history could affect the kind of treatment you need during your pregnancy.

Information About Pregnancy

Your first prenatal visit ends with your doctor giving you information about what to expect over the course of your pregnancy. This includes information about how many prenatal visits to expect, what kind of diet you should follow, foods and other substances to avoid, guidelines for exercise and sleep, and recommendations (or a prescription) for prenatal vitamins. Your doctor may give you an official due date. At some point in your visit, you might also meet with a financial representative who can give you information about what expenses your insurance covers and what other financing options you have.

Signs & Symptoms of a Chemical Pregnancy

Menstration

A woman who is experiencing a chemical pregnancy will begin menstruating soon after the positive pregnancy test, sometimes even right on time with her natural cycle. Prior to the advancement of home pregnancy tests, many woman weren't even aware they were pregnant, and it is projected that up to 70 per cent of conceptions end as chemical pregnancies, with the onset of delayed or even on-time menstruation.

Decreasing hCG

The hCG hormone will begin to decrease rather than increase. A definitive way to determine decreasing hCG is by performing quantitative hCG tests at least 48 hours apart. The hCG in a healthy pregnancy typically doubles every 48 hours, in a chemical pregnancy the hormone will decreases rather than double.

Varying Pregancy Test Results

Innovative technology allows for woman to detect hCG in her urine at home as early as six days prior to her expected period. This allows for her have a positive home pregnancy test despite the embryo failing to develop into a viable pregnancy. An early positive home pregnancy test result followed by a negative result or a questionable result can be a sign of a chemical pregnancy.

How to Raise HCG Levels

Avoid caffeine
Avoid caffeine

Avoid diuretics such as caffeine prior to taking your hCG test. This is particularly important for urine based hCG tests and over the counter home pregnancy tests. Diuretics can increase the speed liquids move through your system, which will dilute the amount of hCG in your sample.

Avoid drinking any liquid
Avoid drinking any liquid

Avoid drinking any liquid for at least four hours prior to testing. Consuming large amounts of liquid will dilute the level of hCG present, which can cause inaccurately low results.

Urine test
Urine test

For urine based tests, do not urinate for at least four hours prior to testing. This allows hCG to collect in the urine, raising the level present on the test.

Ask your doctor about prescription hCG injections
Ask your doctor about prescription hCG injections

Ask your doctor about prescription hCG injections. These medications are synthesized by the body, producing hCG.They are a common part of fertility treatment protocol and are used to induce ovulation and raise progesterone. Injections of hCG will cause a false positive result on both urine and blood pregnancy tests.

Take an hCG supplement
Take an hCG supplement

Take an hCG supplement designed for dieters. There are several dietary and weight loss supplements which contain hCG. These supplements should be used under the care of a doctor.

Warning

Using hCG can affect your fertility. You may experience irregular menstruation or serious side effects such as ovarian hyperstimulation, ovarian torsion and rupture. Use only under the care of a doctor.