Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

What is Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy?

Last updated on January 21st, 2023 at 11:58 am

Hormonal changes during pregnancy are common and normal. However, they can cause some discomfort or even complications if not managed properly.

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy, When you are pregnant, your body goes into overdrive. The blood volume increases, the immune system alters to guard the growing foetus and hormones flood our system.

How do pregnancy hormones affect your body in each trimester?

From the moment one becomes pregnant, hormones take a roller coaster ride. These powerful hormones affect the mind and body as our body attempts to create and nurture a new human being.

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First trimester 

When you are pregnant, your body goes into overdrive. The blood volume increases, the immune system alters to guard the growing foetus and hormones flood our system. Majorly estrogen, progesterone and HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormones are secreted by the baby and the placenta. As the name suggests, progesterone is pro-gestation, gestation means pregnancy. Progesterone keeps the pregnancy safe but also causes mood swings during pregnancy. Estrogen increases blood flow to the uterus and supplies vital nutrients needed for foetal growth.

Blood flow to the breast also increases, making them tender. Though uncomfortable, this prepares the breast tissue for milk production. Increased blood flow to the skin causes the pregnancy glow. The HCG hormone supports and protects the early pregnancy for the first 3 months until the placenta takes over. HCG causes morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy.

Mood swings are common during the first trimester of pregnancy

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Second trimester

The second trimester is the time to enjoy pregnancy, as one feels a little normal. Nausea often drives away. Progesterone and estrogen continue to increase and support the babies’ growth. Cortisol and insulin both increase during pregnancy – the balance between these two helps regulate blood sugar levels and metabolism. Sometimes high cortisol, along with adrenaline, may cause side effects like high blood pressure and issues associated with. Growth hormone and thyroid hormone both increase. They help in the uterus’ development to support the growing foetus and this helps in the baby’s growth, too.

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Third trimester

This is the trimester of weight gain as both the mother and the baby gain on the pounds as growth continues. The estrogen levels during this trimester are around six times higher than before pregnancy. In this trimester, one will notice water retention and swelling around the feet and ankles. In the meantime, relaxin relaxes the pelvic muscles and ligaments and starts preparing the body for labor. As the due date approaches the prostaglandins and oxytocin hormones start rising and estrogen and progesterone reduce until the woman goes into labour.

Oxytocin controls labor and causes uterine contraction. Oxytocin is called the love hormone, and it also plays a huge role in the mother and baby bonding after the delivery. With the onset of labor, the prolactin hormone rises. As the name suggests, prolactin is pro lactation, and along with the oxytocin, it is vital for milk production and secretion for breastfeeding.

Third trimester is the time for weight gain during pregnancy

How does your body changes during pregnancy?

Hormonal changes during early pregnancy are common and normal, but they can cause some discomfort. Learn more about these changes and how to deal with them.

Pregnancy hormones and exercise injuries

While these hormones are absolutely critical for a successful pregnancy, they also can make exercise more difficult. Because the ligaments are looser, pregnant women may be at greater risk for sprains and strains of the ankle or knee. However, no studies have documented an increased rate of injury during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s entire posture changes. Her breasts are larger. Her abdomen transforms from flat or concave to very convex, increasing the curvature of her back. The combined effect shifts the center-of-gravity forward and may lead to changes in her sense of balance.

Changes in the hair, skin, and nails

Many women will experience changes in the physical appearance of their skin during pregnancy. Although most are temporary, some such as stretch marks can cause permanent changes. In addition, women who experience some of these skin changes during pregnancy are more likely to experience them again in future pregnancies or even while taking hormonal contraceptives.

1. Hair and nail changes

Many women experience changes in hair and nail growth during pregnancy. Hormone changes can sometimes cause excessive hair shedding or hair loss. This is especially true in women with a family history of female alopecia.

But many women experience hair growth and thickening during pregnancy and may even notice hair growth in unwanted places. Hair growth on the face, arms, legs, or back can occur. Most changes in hair growth return to normal after the baby is born. It’s common, however, for hair loss or increased shedding to occur up to a year postpartum, as hair follicles and hormone levels regulate themselves without the influence of pregnancy hormones.

Many women also experience faster nail growth during pregnancy. Eating well and taking prenatal vitamins adds to the growth hormones of pregnancy. Although some may find the change desirable, much may notice increased nail brittleness, breakage, grooves, or keratosis. Healthy dietary changes to increase nail strength can help prevent breakage without the use of chemical nail products.

2. “Mask” of pregnancy and hyperpigmentation

The vast majority of pregnant women experience some type of hyperpigmentation during pregnancy. This comprises darkening in skin tone on body parts such as the areolas, genitals, scars, and the linea alba (a dark line) down the middle of the abdomen. Hyperpigmentation can occur in women of any skin tone, although it’s more common in women with darker complexions. In addition, up to 70 percent of pregnant women experience a darkening of the skin on the face. This condition is known as melasma or the “mask” of pregnancy. It can be worsened by sun exposure and radiation, so a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen should be used daily during pregnancy. In most cases, melasma resolves after pregnancy.

3. Stretch marks

Stretch marks (striae gravidarum) are perhaps the most well-known skin change of pregnancy. They’re caused by a combination of physical stretching of the skin and the effects of hormone changes on the skin’s elasticity. Up to 90 percent of women develop stretch marks by the third trimester of pregnancy, often on the breasts and abdomen. Although the pinkish-purple stretch marks may never fully disappear, they often fade to the color of surrounding skin and shrink in size postpartum. Stretch marks can itch, so apply creams to soften and reduce the urge to scratch and possibly damage the skin.

4. Mole and freckle changes

The hyperpigmentation caused by changes in hormones during pregnancy can cause changes in the colour of moles and freckles. Some darkening of moles, freckles, and birthmarks can be harmless. But it’s always a good idea to see a dermatologist or physician about changes in size, colour, or shape. Pregnancy hormones can also cause the appearance of dark patches of skin that are often unpreventable. Although most skin pigmentation changes will fade or disappear after pregnancy, some changes in a mole or freckle colour may be permanent. It’s a good idea to have a skin check for potential skin cancer or pregnancy-specific skin conditions if you notice any changes.

5. Pregnancy-specific rashes and boils

Small percentages of women may experience skin conditions that are specific to pregnancy, such as PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) and folliculitis. Most conditions involve pustules and red bumps along the abdomen, legs, arms, or back. Although most rashes are harmless and resolve quickly postpartum, some skin conditions may be associated with premature delivery or problems for the baby. These include intrahepatic cholestasis and pemphigoid gestations.


It takes approximately 3 to 6 months post-delivery for most of these hormones to go at the pre-pregnancy state and once the breastfeeding is stopped, they will return to normalcy.

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