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7 Surprising Ways Hormones Change Your Body During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can feel like being a rollercoaster as you experience the highs and lows of physical and emotional changes. The biggest culprit? Fluctuating hormones. And you might be surprised at the long list of ways they can affect you.

Your Mood Changes Suddenly

In your first trimester, progesterone levels increase, often triggering mood swings.

You can ease mood swings by exercising 30 minutes a day, releasing endorphins that help stabilize your emotional well-being. You don’t have to do anything strenuous to get an endorphin boost. Walking or lifting small amounts of weight, such as 10 pounds, is enough to release this feel-good hormone.

Another way to help prevent mood swings is to eat healthy foods and not wait more than four hours between meals. Delaying meals or snacks can cause hypoglycemia, a lowering of blood sugar, which affects mood and in turn, cortisol, which is your body’s main stress hormone. The more you do to take care of your overall health, the better protected you are from progesterone-induced mood swings.

Your Digestion Slows

What most people don’t know is that increased progesterone slows digestion, and, in general, decreases the speed of motility in the bowels. This results in:

  • Increased risk for constipation and gas
  • Increased risk of UTI, as movement of fluid through urinary system also slows
  • Decreased ability to create an immunity response

You’re at Greater Risk of Hemorrhoids

Because progesterone decreases bowel motility, it can increase your risk of constipation. The more you strain on the toilet, the greater your risk of hemorrhoids. This can be easily addressed with:

  • A high-fiber diet
  • Stool-softener pills to decrease straining
  • Topical-care creams
  • Heating pads to sit on

Your Body Starts To Look Different

Your estrogen levels also rise, which can result in several changes to your appearance, including:

  • Darkening nipples
  • A faint line of hair from the lower abdomen to the pubic area
  • Dermatological effects, including skin lesions and cherry spots
  • Larger breasts that feel fuller

You Start To Produce Milk

At about five months into pregnancy, your body begins to produce the hormone prolactin, which allows you to produce milk. This is normal. You may also start to form colostrum, a thicker, nutrient-dense version of milk that your body produces before it starts producing regular breast milk two to four days after you have given birth. Around this time, your breasts may even start leaking, especially if you’ve been pregnant before.

Your Body Readies for Labor

By creating the hormone oxytocin toward the end of your pregnancy, your body is preparing you to go into labor. This hormone stimulates the uterus to contract. It is better known as being a bonding hormone, released when we hug, fall in love or are sexually excited. Massaging the nipples increases the flow of oxytocin in pregnant women and is said to help induce labor.

You May Feel Depressed After Giving Birth

In new mothers, low levels of serotonin are common. Two weeks after delivery, mood tends to stabilize, but doesn’t always. If your mood doesn’t start to normalize around this time, see your doctor for a depression and anxiety screening. Postpartum depression is common, and can be eased with counseling

Your doctor is a resource to help you feel emotionally and physically healthy so you can enjoy this time with your new baby.

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