All pregnant women go through hormonal transformations necessary for the proper course of pregnancy.
Hormones = Pregnancy
However, the hormone rate can vary from one woman to another. This explains in part the fact that some women have difficulty with physical symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, constipation, reflux, migraines…but also emotionally. For example, getting emotional for no reason, short-tempered, or have variable intensity mood swings, depending on the woman and pregnancy stage.
At the start of pregnancy, increased progesterone and estrogen allow for the embryo to nest in the uterus. They also relax specific tissues and much more. Women who are more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations can feel very different, not themselves, and lose control of their reactions. Some will have more energy, be happier, exploding with joy. Others will experience times during pregnancy and the postnatal period differently than they thought they would. They may be more negative, troubled, depressed…in short, feeling down!
Women can improve their situation by doing things they like, but also by getting support from their support network. People who will listen to you, understand you and accept you as you are. Communication as a couple is also essential to disarm problem situations as they occur and avoid conflicts that could continue over time. The spouse’s support is vital to ease the situation.
Good lifestyle habits can also help women feel better. In effect, eating well, getting outside, seeing friends, sleeping well, playing sports, doing yoga and meditation can contribute to stabilising mood swings. In a certain way, women can control the situation. But if you still feel sad all the time, with no drive to do anything, even things you love, you need to talk about it. Poor sleep or eating less are indicators of a malaise.
Mother and father are the best placed to note these signs and ask for help when needed. Health professionals can help, and sometimes it will be necessary to be referred for psychological or medicated help. But what is most important is that the mother is healthy and can take care of herself and her baby with the constant support of the father.
Also remember that when more intense situations of emotional disbalances occur, it’s not your fault! You are not a worse woman, mother or partner! Each person has vulnerabilities, and every person will experience painful things in life to which they need to adapt. But many people come out of these experiences stronger!
Hormones: Childbirth and Breastfeeding
Childbirth is a very instinctive phenomenon, but you have to be aware of your body and what is going on inside. A group of hormones will cohabitate during pregnancy, labour and childbirth. But they remain susceptible and timid if the surrounding environment isn’t favourable. If there are hormonal disbalances, this can interfere with the progress of labour and delivery. Oxytocin, endorphins, adrenalin, catecholamines, and prolactin are all essential and necessary in their own way. If this cocktail doesn’t deploy as expected, there is no childbirth physiology. That is why you always have to work with your hormones and avoid disrupting their release. I know it’s not easy to do, but for the physiology to work, you have to learn to let go, release yourself to the present moment. Feel safe, take one contraction at a time and trust the process. You have everything you need to give birth to your baby.
Oxytocin is the hormone that triggers contractions and allows for childbirth. After the baby’s birth, there is an automatic increase in this hormone, which allows for the development of attachment and to start breastfeeding. It is also called the “pleasure” or “love” hormone because it is present when you just had a good meal, when relaxing after a good massage or after sexual relations. It can generate both calm and the process to reach it. If a woman in labour, for example, goes through severe stress, she will release adrenaline (stress cortisol hormone), which disrupts the production of oxytocin and negatively influences the progress of labour. You need to be in a calm and stress-free environment to keep the oxytocin active to do its expected work.
When the baby is born, it is crucial to place the baby on the mother to promote the secretion of oxytocin, the love hormone. So it’s important to not get in the way. A new mother will never have had so much oxytocin in her system than after giving birth unless the delivery was disrupted by unnecessary actions. This applies to the first attempts at breastfeeding, where the woman will feel serene and relaxed, her eyes semi-comatose sometimes.
Endorphins naturally soothe pain and lead a state of wellbeing. Sometimes you will see a woman in labour who seems to be in an alternative consciousness, concentrated on what is going on inside her. The increased levels of endorphins are the cause. The proof is that many women will sleep between contractions, not because they are tired but due to their natural endorphins.
Following childbirth, blood levels of endorphins remain high and promote the production of prolactin, which is a mothering hormone, one that helps develop the mother-child relationship.
The prolactin the mother produces and in her blood after childbirth is also found in the colostrum she feeds to her baby. This relaxes the baby, significantly reduces its stress after its birth. Additionally, prolactin is also responsible for the mother’s lactation once the placenta is expelled.
Adrenalin and catecholamines are also essential hormones for childbirth, as they provide the mother with energy during her last stage of labour to push the baby (push reflex). She will also be more aware of her baby after it arrives. Catecholamines have an impact on the baby, providing it with a general stimulation and promoting automatic breathing.
Often, it’s not the outcome of childbirth that counts. It’s the way you get there by maximising your strengths, even if it ends up being an unplanned cesarean. In the best of worlds, we will try to reduce obstetrical interventions as much as possible (cesareans, the use of instruments, medical analgesics, epidurals, or the use of synthetic oxytocin) during labour and delivery to favour the physiology of childbirth.
Share your stories with us!
The Baby Expert
Share your experiences in the comment section.