Everything You Should Know About Hormones
Hormones are so much more interesting than what you're taught in Biology class. So we've created a guide to understanding hormones and what they do.
Each part of your body from your brain to your skin, your heart, and your kidneys has a specific job. They take direction from your endocrine system to get the work done. The endocrine glands send out hormones that tell your body what to do, when to do it, and for how long. So what are hormones? They are your body’s chemical messengers. Always, they travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs to help them do their work. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes, including:
- Growth and development
- Metabolism – how your body gets energy from the foods you eat
- Sexual function
Sometimes hormones get out of balance. That can lead to problems like diabetes, weight gain or loss, infertility, and other problems. If you have a hormone-related condition, the best thing to do is to talk to your doctor. He will help you get your body back in balance.
This subject is wide and far-reaching. For this article, we'll focus on certain hormones and examine how they affect our lives.
HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) is the key hormone during pregnancy. It's produced by what ultimately becomes the placenta. The basic job of HCG is it tells your body that there’s a life form growing in your womb. And that your body needs to build a nest for it. HCG also tells your ovaries to shut off the production line of maturing an egg every month.
What HCG does
- It stimulates the production of progesterone and estrogen, two other important pregnancy hormones.
- HCG suppresses your immune system to support your developing baby. Basically, it announces the presence of your baby to your body and helps your womb get ready for its tiny guest.
- It is believed that rising levels of HCG are responsible for morning sickness — which subsides as your HCD levels go down.
Early in pregnancy, your body makes progesterone from a cyst on the ovary called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone until about 10 weeks. Then the placenta takes over the production of progesterone.
What progesterone does
- Even before you are pregnant, it stimulates the growth of your uterine lining in preparation to receive the fertilized egg.
- It encourages the growth of breast tissue in preparation for breastfeeding while preventing lactation.
- Progesterone helps prepare you for labour in late pregnancy, by softening ligaments and cartilage.
- It suppresses your immune system so that it tolerates the foreign DNA of your developing baby.
- This hormone stimulates glands in the endometrium to release nutrients for your tiny embryo to grow.
Like progesterone, estrogen is secreted by the corpus luteum until the placenta takes over. This pregnancy hormone plays a key role in the development of the foetus. It also triggers the growth of several organs and other bodily systems in the fetus. It steadily increases until the end of your first trimester, after which it plateaus. Estrogen has several, incredibly important roles in your pregnancy.
What estrogen does
- Estrogen helps your uterus grow.
- It regulates the production of other important hormones, including progesterone.
- Plays a crucial role in the development of your baby’s organs. Without it, your baby’s lungs, liver, and other organs cannot grow.
- It helps protect your pregnancy by preventing miscarriage.
Also known as the happy hormone and love hormone, this is the hormone that triggers labour by kick-starting contractions.
What oxytocin does
- This hormone promotes bonding between you and your baby soon after he or she is born.
- It stretches your cervix in preparation for birth.
- Oxytocin stimulates your nipples to produce milk.
During pregnancy, the placenta starts to produce this hormone around the second week The highest levels of hPL occur during the latter stages of pregnancy.
What hPL does
- It helps supply energy to your developing baby, to fuel his or her growth. This is done by regulating your metabolism, enabling your body to break down fats better, converting them to energy/ food.
- It makes your body less sensitive to insulin. Insulin is responsible for shifting glucose from your bloodstream to cells. In effect, there is more sugar left in your blood to nourish your baby.
- Stimulates milk glands in the breasts in preparation for breastfeeding after baby’s birth
This is another important hormone that helps with milk production. In fact, during pregnancy, it increases 10-20 times its normal amount.
What prolactin does
- It causes your breasts to increase in size, promoting the growth of your breast tissue.
- Prepares breasts for lactation and the release of milk.
Much like its name suggests, this hormone has an important, “relaxing” role on your body during pregnancy. While it is present and produced by the ovaries in non-pregnant women, during pregnancy, the placenta and uterine lining boost the production of relaxin.
What relaxin does
- Prepares the uterus and its lining for pregnancy.
- Relaxes the uterus wall to prevent contractions, which can obstruct the implantation process of a fertilized egg.
- Prevents early contractions, helping to retain the pregnancy and avoid miscarriage.
- It relaxes your blood vessels to help them cope with the increased blood volume you produce in pregnancy.
- During labor and delivery, relaxin stimulates the softening of the cervix. It also relaxes the ligaments of your pelvis for a smoother delivery.