Understanding Pregnancy Hormones

Your body is currently experiencing many changes, and those changes are prompted by hormones. In what ways do these hormones impact your pregnancy? What are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing as a result? And what determines how your body reacts to these hormones?

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Episode Transcript

Preggie Pals
Understanding Pregnancy Hormones

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.


[Theme Music]

Wade Schwendemann: Severe morning sickness? Unexplainable mood swings and drastic changes in your physical appearance are just some of the benefits of pregnancy hormones. With the possible exception of puberty, you’ve never been so affected by these natural chemicals in your body. I’m Dr. Wade Schwendemann, an OB/GYN at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns and today we’re learning all about pregnancy hormones currently ranging through your body. This is Preggie Pals episode 49.

[Theme Music/Intro]

Sunny Gault: Welcome to Preggie Pals, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Preggie Pals is your weekly, online, on-the-go support group for expecting parents and those hoping to become pregnant. I’m your host, Sunny Gault. Thanks to all of our loyal listeners who joined the Preggie Pals Club! Our members get all of our archived episodes, bonus content after each new show, plus special giveaways and discounts. You’ll also receive a free subscription to Preggie Pals Magazine. See our website PreggiePals.com for more information. Another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Preggie Pals App, so there’s nothing to lose. It’s available in the Android and iTunes marketplace. And for those of our listeners local to San Diego, don’t forget about the Your Natural Baby Fair coming up later this month. It’s on April 27th. You can purchase your tickets online at YourNaturalBabyFair.com. Use promo code “MOMMEDIA” for 15% off. If you don’t live in San Diego, we’ll be broadcasting live from the event. You can visit the fair website for our schedule of interviews, including Penny Simkin, Dr. Bob Sears, and much more.

[Theme Music]

[Featured Segment: From Our Listeners - Episode Helps Mom Through Precipitous Labor!]

Sunny Gault: So one of the things we love to do here at Preggie Pals is to read some of the emails that you guys sent to us. We love getting emails about how the show has impacted you. And there is an email that I would like to read to you guys today. This is from listener Elizabeth Dunnam and seriously this pretty much brought tears to my eyes when I read this. I just love it. Elizabeth says: “I just wanted to say thank you for the show. I listened to this episode [and the episode she is referring to is The Precipitous Labor episode] shortly before my own precipitous labor of two and a half hours. I remember reminding myself of some of some of the comments and advice from your panel on the car ride to the hospital at 1:30 am. With contractions coming closer and closer together I knew it wouldn’t be long. So thanks for the education and love. I was better prepared thanks to all of your hard work, Preggie Pals.”
Thank you, Elizabeth. I cannot thank you enough for sending this email. And if the show has impacted anyone who’s listening to the show now, if the show has impacted you in any way, please send us an email, leave us a comment on our Facebook page. We will read these comments on the show, because I think it’s really important for people to hear. And this is a community and we want you to be part of our show, so thanks so much!

[Theme Music]

Sunny Gault: Today on Preggie Pals we’re talking about all the hormonal changes our bodies go through when we’re pregnant. And Dr. Wade Schwendemann is an OB/GYN at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns here in San Diego. He’s also with the San Diego Prenatal Center. Welcome to the show, Dr. Schwendemann.

Wade Schwendemann: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Sunny Gault: Absolutely. So what exactly are these hormones and how do they impact our body? Wade Schwendemann: Hormones are a way that your body tells itself what to do. Either the organ itself produces something that tells it what to do, or your brain produces something that tells a different organ what to do. They impact the body in virtually every way you can possibly think of. They’re responsible for anything from becoming pregnant to carrying a pregnancy successfully and breastfeeding after pregnancy. And we always have hormones in our body, right?

Wade Schwendemann: Yeah. Every day there are hormones circulating in your body. They won the gamut from luteinizing hormones to thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone, things like that.

Sunny Gault: Do we all have the same hormones or is there a chance that a woman could have a different type of hormone than another woman?

Wade Schwendemann: In theory everyone has the same hormones, but there can be something going on that can cause more or less of one hormone to be produced. People can have their hormones out of regulation and that can be a problem. If one of your hormones is out of balance you can absolutely have a difficulty either becoming pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy or it can affect any other aspect of life apart from pregnancy. So if something is out of balance that’s when it’s important to see a doctor.

Sunny Gault: Yeah. And that can also cause some extreme symptoms, too, if things are kind of out of whack, right?

Wade Schwendemann: Absolutely. One of the most common hormonal disorders is thyroid problems. And those thyroid disorders can cause anything from heat or cold intolerance to changes in your skin, changes in your heart rate, you can notice some pretty significant things.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So when we talk about what a hormone is, I want to get just for a second a little bit scientific here. Is it a chemical that’s in our body? I’m picturing little cells and stuff like that. Or is it something that’s more like in the blood stream? What are we talking about here?

Wade Schwendemann: That’s exactly what we are talking about. There are lots of different types of hormones and they use different types of messengers inside yourselves. Some of them bind to the outside of a cell and send a message to the middle. Some of them are taken into the cell and directly to the middle to provide that message. And there are other subtypes as well. The difference is that different parts of the body use different types of hormone messengers and different parts of your brain produce different guides.

Sunny Gault: So, we mentioned that you always have hormones in your body. But the ones that are specific to pregnancy – do they stick with you throughout your pregnancy? Do they develop at the startup of your pregnancy? Or is it kind of a mixture?

Wade Schwendemann: It depends on the hormone that you’re talking about. Some of the hormones that are responsible for either becoming pregnant or staying pregnant are produced on a regular basis in your body, at predictable times during your monthly cycle, for example; or are produced in particular amounts either during or throughout the pregnancy. Other hormones are produced either by the ovary during the pregnancy only, or by the placenta, which of course is only there once you become pregnant.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So let’s break down some of these hormones and really get into the specific symptoms. Let’s talk about the hormones first of all that are needed prior to getting pregnant and to become pregnant.

Wade Schwendemann: Ok. There are two main hormones that are responsible for a woman’s monthly cycle and they are the two that are primarily required to get pregnant – whether you have them yourself or whether they have to be administered from the outside if you don’t have enough. First that I would start with is FSH, or Follicle-Stimulating Hormone. That hormone is produced in the pituitary gland in your brain and it causes development of multiple follicles on your ovaries.

Sunny Gault: What’s a follicle?

Wade Schwendemann: A follicle is basically an egg cell and the supporting structures for that one egg cell. Each month a woman actually develops between 20 and 25 of these follicles on average and only one of them actually is selected to release the egg – in most cases, sometimes more than one; that’s how women can end up with twins, or one of the ways they can end up with twins or more. But these follicles are selected by the body and only one of them typically releases an egg, but the rest kind of go away on their own. So every month a woman is developing 20 to 25 of these follicles usually releasing only one. For Follicle-Stimulating Hormone there aren’t really any… the biggest thing that you would see when you didn’t have any would be a lack of development of these follicles. And so that would be something that would have to be done, to determine through a blood test more than anything else.
With LH, or Luteinizing Hormone – that’s the hormone that’s actually responsible for one egg typically being released in what’s called the LH surge. This is also what the ovulation predictor kits that you can buy over the counter at pharmacies – that’s what they test for. It’s for LH. So when you test and you test positive on those kits you’ve recently ovulated. And that’s when it’s the best chance for you to get pregnant in the monthly cycle.

Sunny Gault: Ok. And then are there any noticeable symptoms? Speaking of ovulation, a lot of our listeners are trying to get pregnant and they may want to try to time it. So how do we know when these hormones, are there any symptoms that we can tell with our body that this is happening so that we can try to get pregnant?

Wade Schwendemann: There are a couple symptoms that we can use rather than taking a urine dipstick test at the pharmacy. Some women will use a basal body temperature. And you can typically see about a degree-a degree and a half of increase in your basal body temperature right around when you ovulate; right around the time of that LH surge where the hormone increase can cause that body temperature to go up.
There’s also a bit of a change in the consistency of cervical mucus. And so some women will do a test to see how thick the mucus is and if it’s thicker, they know that they’ve recently ovulated.
Other than that, occasionally women will actually be able to feel when they ovulate. They’ll say they feel a little bit of mid-cycle pain. It kind of feels like a menstrual cramp, but not for as long and not as severe. Some women can tell every month when they’re ovulating.

Sunny Gault: I wish I could tell, because I may have saved a lot of money in these hormones kits, the ovulation kits and stuff like that (laughing).

Wade Schwendemann: Those things are expensive, it’s not cheap. They’re more accurate than the average basal body temperature test or the average cervical mucus test. But there’s a cost involved. It’s cheaper than going through an IVF cycle, but still, 60 dollars a month adds up pretty quick.

Sunny Gault: It absolutely does. Ok, when we come back we’re going to discuss the hormones you experience once you become pregnant. We’ll be right back.

[Theme Music]


Sunny Gault: Welcome back! Today we’re learning about different types of hormones you experience when pregnant. Our guest expert is Dr. Wade Schwendemann, he’s an OB/GYN at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns and the San Diego Prenatal Center. So in the first part we talked about what hormones are, as well as what hormones are needed to get pregnant, so now we’re going to focus in on the pregnancy. Let’s talk about the first hormone present after pregnancy. And we’re all looking for this when we pee on the stick – it’s HCG. Tell us about it.

Wade Schwendemann: HCG stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. And that is basically the hormone that is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy early in the pregnancy. It helps to stimulate the production of other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone. It is the hormone that we test for when looking for pregnancy. Very rarely would someone have HCG present in their body unless they were pregnant. And if you do have HCG and you’re not pregnant, that’s definitely something you should see a doctor about.

Sunny Gault: Is this also known as the Human Growth Hormone?

Wade Schwendemann: Those are completely different.

Sunny Gault: Oh they are?

Wade Schwendemann: They are completely different. Human Growth Hormone is a hormone that is responsible for the development of your body during growth spurs and it’s the one that you see… allegedly baseball players and people like that take it to get stronger faster.

Sunny Gault: So even though we’re creating a human now it’s still something totally different.

Wade Schwendemann: Right. The baby that’s being created will produce this Human Growth Hormone later and will develop into a full grown adult eventually in most cases. Best case scenario. But the HCG hormone is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy and maintaining what’s called the corpus luteum – sorry to get a little bit technical - it’s basically where the follicle came from. And that area, if it goes away, will result in no pregnancy. We have to support that somehow. And corpus luteum is responsible for producing progesterone early in the pregnancy. Later on in the pregnancy the baby’s placenta takes over. But if we don’t have a corpus luteum, say someone goes through IVF for example, they don’t have that there, so that we have to give them progesterone. But if they got pregnant on their own, the HCG from the baby will support the corpus luteum early in the pregnancy. That’s a little technical and I apologize for that. But the bottom line is, HCG is the critical hormone early in pregnancy and it is the hormone that is responsible unfortunately for a lot of those early pregnancy symptoms that some of you are all too familiar with. It’s the one that we check for in… if women were to have kind of a concern for pregnancy, for the pregnancy growing ok – it’s supposed to double at about every two to three days. Two thirds of women will see it double at within two days, but if it doesn’t double within three days, then we start to worry about, is this going to be a successful pregnancy or not? Sometimes the pregnancy can be an ectopic; sometimes it can just portend a miscarriage or just predict a miscarriage. But in general if you’re seeing that doubling every two or three days, that’s a good thing.

Sunny Gault: And that would be done through what type of test?

Wade Schwendemann: It’s only going to be able to be done through a blood test. The urine kits that we get at any store will tell us about the presence of HCG or not. They’re not going to tell us how much is there, just yes or no. And so a blood test done by a lab is going to tell us what level that hormone is at. So if you’re early in the pregnancy and you want to make sure that things are going well – maybe you have some bleeding or something like that – what I would say is see a doctor or a nurse and they order the lab test and then you have another test in two or three days. And that level should double in about two to three days in the great majority of women. If it doesn’t, that’s when we start to worry about things. But if it does, hopefully things continue to go well.

Sunny Gault: Right. When does HCG peak?

Wade Schwendemann: HCG tends to peak somewhere between 11 and 12 weeks of pregnancy and coincidentally that’s when a lot of those symptoms tend to be the worst. So women who have morning sickness and nausea can look forward to that starting to get better right around the end of the first trimester.

Sunny Gault: Ok, so yeah. Morning sickness is the big one. What are some of the other symptoms we might experience?

Wade Schwendemann: Breast tenderness is another very common symptom that is caused by the HCG. As you start to see those levels fall, women start to… some of it is that you get a little bit more used to it and some of it is that it’s actually not as severe as before.

Sunny Gault: So the levels fall, because I’m assuming that our bodies don’t need as much of it anymore. Can you tell us, is there an easy way to explain why our bodies don’t need that?

Wade Schwendemann: Yeah. Basically the HCG’s job is to maintain that corpus luteum we talked about, which produces progesterone. At about 10 weeks or so, usually around 9 or 10, the baby’s placenta has taken over the job of producing progesterone, so we don’t have to keep the corpus luteum around as much anymore. We don’t need as much HCG. Women with twins or more will often see a similar level of HCG to women with one baby. It’s not that much higher. You can’t predict, based on HCG, whether someone has twins or not. There are some very rare conditions which produce a lot of HCG. And if that happens it’s something that needs to be treated. And so that would be something we would follow up with very closely. But in general there’s a wide range of normal and just having a higher level of HCG doesn’t always mean something good or something bad.

Sunny Gault: I know with both of my pregnancies my husband and I kind of had this ritual of… we’d pee on the stick, it says pregnant, we’re like, “Ok, we need to confirm this with a blood test”, we’d get an appointment and usually just get into the lab later that day. We’ll usually have the results back by the end of the day and it’s always like a measure of number, you know. Can you tell us, for those of us who are able to access those numbers, what should we expect to see? It’s usually like, if it’s below this that means you’re not, if it’s above this it means you are.

Wade Schwendemann: The urine test can detect as low as 25 at this point. There is some ultrasensitive test that can detect even less than that before you even miss your period. But it increases week to week, it’s going to double every two or three days. You can have 25 or 30 at week 5 and then you can get to the thousands by the end of week 5 and then tens of thousands by the end of week 6 to 7 and then hundreds of thousands in weeks like 9 or 10. But there’s such a wide range of normal, it’s very difficult to say with any certainty. There are some numbers that in the medical community we’ll use to say we should be able to see something on the ultrasound by now if the number’s 1500. Typically you can see something with a vaginal ultrasound. If it’s 2500 in most cases we can see something abdominal with an abdominal ultrasound. But that’s not always true. But if you’re at a number like that and we can’t see something, it certainly bares close watching, more than just “I will see you back next week.”

Sunny Gault: Right. Ok. Let’s move on, let’s talk about estrogen and progesterone. So what are their roles in the body?

Wade Schwendemann: Well estrogen and progesterone have literally dozens of roles each in the body. Specifically, estrogen is what induces the LH that we talked about earlier, back before you even get pregnant. During pregnancy estrogen is responsible for thickening the lining of the uterus and making sure that there’s a good enough blood supply for the placenta to draw from so that the baby can get all the nutrients that it needs. There are some thoughts that estrogen increases the uterine blood flow, and so, as you get further along in the pregnancy, your uterus takes more and more of your blood volume. When a person is not pregnant they have about 5 liters of circulating blood in their body. By the time they are delivering a baby or close to delivering, one liter is going to the uterus every minute. And so there’s a lot there. Your blood volume, of course, increases in pregnancy too, but in general the estrogen is responsible for increasing some of that blood flow. Estrogen helps to time the onset of labor. It helps to prepare the breasts for lactation. And there’s some thought that estrogen helps with maturing the baby’s lungs a little bit.
Progesterone on the other hand is responsible for relaxing the uterus, decreasing the risk for early labor. There’s some thought that it helps to prevent the body from rejecting the pregnancy. Half of the baby’s DNA and material is bore into the mom, right, because it comes from dad. And so normally your body would try to fight that half off and cause a problem. Progesterone decreases that response and helps to ensure that the inside of the uterine cavity where the baby should be is kind of a protective zone.

Sunny Gault: Like a bodyguard for the baby.

Wade Schwendemann: Yeah, it absolutely is. It helps to keep the uterus quiet until it’s actually time to do the delivery.

Sunny Gault: And how will we know if this is happening? What symptoms will we be seeing in our bodies? Is there anything noticeable, like if you have a lot of estrogen you might be seeing these symptoms, if you have a lot of progesterone you might be seeing these symptoms.

Wade Schwendemann: Not as much. The great majority of pregnancy symptoms, especially early, are going to be from the HCG. Later in the pregnancy estrogen and progesterone will produce things that can cause some of those typical hormonal changes of pregnancy. But they induce other hormones to do it. They don’t necessarily do it themselves. Things like the “mask of pregnancy” that you see is caused by a change in some of the skin hormones that are induced during pregnancy by estrogen and progesterone. The same is true with the line that we start to see – there are other hormones that as things go forward are seen to cause those pregnancy associated changes.

Sunny Gault: And by “the line” we’re talking about that beautiful thing that goes and basically splits your body in half and your belly, right? What is that?

Wade Schwendemann: The linea nigra is what it’s called once it turns dark. Before that they call it linea alba. Because it was white before and the terms come I think from Latin.

Sunny Gault: Yeah. We’re all familiar with that. All women get that?

Wade Schwendemann: Not…

Sunny Gault: I mean I know some cases are worse than others.

Wade Schwendemann: Every woman is a little bit different. How much, how dark was your skin to begin with is going to help to say how much you’re going to see the difference. But for the most part almost all women develop some amount of skin color change, particularly on their abdomen. That is permanent.

Sunny Gault: Yeah. I can still see mine a little bit. But there are other issues with my tummy at this point, after two kids.

Wade Schwendemann: These are the intended effects of these hormones – thickening the line of the uterus, preparing breasts for lactation and things like that. But when you’re pregnant or when you’re not, estrogen for example is also responsible for vaginal lubrication. It’s the hormone that causes a normal vaginal lubricant to be produced. And so as some women go through menopause one of the symptoms they experience is vaginal dryness. And it’s because of lack of estrogen. On pregnancy there is more estrogen circulating your body than really at any other time in your life and so you are going to see an increase in vaginal lubrication production. A lot of women, especially later in the pregnancy, will confuse this with their water breaking, because it’s such an increase compared to what they’re used to when they’re not pregnant. It’s a normal thing to have happen. But if you ever are concerned about something like your water breaking you absolutely need to go and be evaluated.

Sunny Gault: This may be kind of a silly question, but if you’re having a girl would you have more estrogen in your body than if you’re having a boy?

Wade Schwendemann: It’s not a silly question at all. The answer is no. Because the fetal ovaries are not particularly active in terms of production. You can see very rarely some associated changes in a boy that would be affiliated with the estrogen, but those go away once the boy is delivered and he’s not seeing mom’s estrogen anymore.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So there are really no hormones that would be more present in the body for one gender or the other? Is that fair to say or just not estrogen?

Wade Schwendemann: I think that is reasonable to say. I think that in general the gender of the baby isn’t going to have a major impact on the way the woman feels. But I’m going to go back to intended effects versus unfortunate effects that I would say. Progesterone, for example, has as its intended effects relaxing the uterus, relaxing the smooth muscles, the muscle that you don’t control. That’s great. Except for the fact that there are other muscles in your body that you don’t control that progesterone also affects. One of the big symptoms that we see for moms is heartburn. It happens to just about everybody at some point.

Sunny Gault: Me, right here, twice!

Wade Schwendemann: And often times it’s due to the progesterone effect relaxing the muscle that keeps your stomach closed. There’s a muscle that separates your upper throat and esophagus from your stomach, where the acid is actually produced. And that muscle is usually tightly closed. Except when you’re pregnant, especially later in the pregnancy, you tend to see a relaxation of that muscle because of the high levels of progesterone. That relaxation allows the acid to come back up. Some women have to sleep sitting up so that gravity helps them out a little bit.

Sunny Gault: Oh, how horrible!

Wade Schwendemann: It’s pretty uncomfortable.

Sunny Gault: I took a pill, that’s what I did. I was prescribed a pill that I took.

Wade Schwendemann: And there are absolutely medicines that are safe for pregnancy and are not going to hurt you or your baby to take. You can try natural remedies. You can try over-the-counter or prescription strength medicines. Definitely you need to talk to you provider, whether it’s a nurse or a doctor, whoever is taking care of you, helping you through your pregnancy. Those are the people that you want to make sure; that’s the exact kind of thing that you want to bring to them, and say “I;m having this symptom. It’s bad for me. Can you help me with it?” And that’s our job. Our goal is to help you understand why and to help you, to make you comfortable.

Sunny Gault: Right. Well, you know, on the lines of progesterone, with my first I started to have really bad heartburn at about 20 weeks, and with my second it happened even earlier. I would say maybe a month sooner than that. So for women who are pregnant, who have subsequent pregnancies, could we experience some of these hormones sooner or is it just that every pregnancy is different?

Wade Schwendemann: Every pregnancy is definitely different, for sure, and so yes, not every hormone effect is going to be seen sooner; some are going to be seen later. Some won’t be seen at all. Or won’t be felt at all. The difference I think is that when on your second pregnancy you are more in tune with the changes and you kind of are looking for that hormone, for the things that happen that were less pleasant. But on the same side you also know what fetal movement feels like for example. And so women often say that they can feel the second baby earlier than the first. Well it’s the first feeling they were feeling the first time; they just didn’t know what it was the first time.

Sunny Gault: Right. Ok. So let’s talk about relaxin. What is relaxin and why is that important?

Wade Schwendemann: Relaxin is a hormone that’s produced in pregnancy that basically – it’s very aptly named – causes relaxation. Now one of the great things that it does is that it allows the pubic bones to separate a little bit. It relaxes the ligaments, the connective tissues that join bone to bone in particular. It also helps to relax the cervix a little bit and it also helps to relax the uterus a little bit. But in general the biggest effect for most women is the relaxation of the joints. Now the great effect of this is that it gives you just a little bit more room at the time of delivery so that you can pass this big baby’s head out through your otherwise small pelvis. The problem is that during the whole pregnancy it’s also responsible for relaxing a lot of the joints and it also causes some of the relaxation of the muscles as well, but not as much. So that lower back pain that you get both from weight gain and from baby weight gain also is due in part to relaxin, because the way that your bones sit together changes. And so you get a lot of pressure from the relaxin. It’s a great hormone and without it would be very difficult for women to deliver a full term baby, because there just wouldn’t be enough space. The body is very tightly designed so that when you’re not pregnant the space there is not necessarily enough to have, say, an 8 pound baby. And some women can’t have an 8 pound baby anyway. But a lot of people can only have it because of… I mean a couple centimeters here, there is a huge difference in terms of the baby’s size.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So it’s not like we’re going to feel our hips widening per say or any of this, but it’s small spaces we’re talking about.

Wade Schwendemann: It’s a small change over time, but if you were to compare the distance and difference between let’s say 12 weeks and 36 weeks, you could see a noticeable difference. You might have to measure it rather than just say “I feel different”, but if we were to measure, there would be a noticeable difference. Relaxin is also responsible for some other… The problem, just like most other hormones, is that it doesn’t necessarily have a specific target. And so you will see other things relax. There’s a lot of, for example, ligaments in your foot that relaxin will cause to relax a little bit as well. Some women will see a change in their shoe size after pregnancy. Not just from feet swelling, but actually from a change in the way the bones are aligned. And they don’t always go back to the way they started.

Sunny Gault: (Laughing) So you may have to buy some shoes after you have this baby.

Wade Schwendemann: That’s a convenient excuse, right?

Sunny Gault: We love shoe shopping!

Wade Schwendemann: There’s absolutely no reason not to get some shoes.

Sunny Gault: When will we start to see, when does relaxin start to present itself in the body? Is it right after conception?

Wade Schwendemann: It’s at about 10 or 12 weeks when relaxin is really produced in the highest levels. However it takes a while for it to do its job. So you don’t always see the effects or feel the effects as early. And also the baby isn’t that big at the beginning, and so the physical space and the gravity of just the baby and the weight of the baby is going to help relaxin do its job by separating the pelvis a little bit more as you advance in the pregnancy.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So let’s move on and talk about oxytocin. Tell me what oxytocin does.

Wade Schwendemann: Oxytocin is the hormone that is responsible for causing contractions and it’s the one that’s responsible for the production of milk. It helps to produce milk later in the pregnancy along with prolactin. But oxytocin is the one that basically says, “Ok, it’s time to have this baby.” And so what happens is that estrogen and progesterone increase the number of receptors or places that oxytocin can join with the uterus. And once it’s time to have the baby, the oxytocin that’s produced naturally by your body joins with the uterus and causes those regular uterine contractions. It’s also responsible for causing contraction after the baby and placenta are delivered. And so what you see is a decrease in blood loss, because the uterus is nice and tight. The doctors will often give you a shot after delivery and sometimes you might even need a little bit extra before delivery to cause the uterus to get those regular, predictable strong contractions that will help push this baby out vaginally.

Sunny Gault: Ok. So when we say… is the medical version of oxytocin? That’s ok?

Wade Schwendemann: That’s the synthetic oxytocin.

Sunny Gault: Ok, got it. I thought that there was a hormone that your body released to help you deal basically with pain, with stuff like that. Maybe you get it after the baby comes out? Are there hormones that go through your body that are like, “Whew I just accomplished something really big.”

Wade Schwendemann: There’s definitely a release of hormones after that time and that’s what will cause a lot of those women to have those baby shakes that we see after the delivery. It’s a very common, very natural thing. But no, I think you’re thinking of endorphins maybe.

Sunny Gault: Maybe.

Wade Schwendemann: Kind of like what runners get with the runner’s high. Where your body says – and absolutely , delivering a baby is without a doubt one of the most amazing things your body can do. And the fact that you’ve done a delivery is a huge source of satisfaction and accomplishment. So you deserve every bit of those things that you get.

Sunny Gault: (Laughing) Bring them on!

Wade Schwendemann: I don’t know how many deliveries I’ve attended, probably it’s in the thousands for sure, and every single time it’s an amazing thing to be part of. Because it’s a woman and her body, the family’s there and it’s just so wonderful. And it’s one of those things where you can only imagine how great it is for them.

Sunny Gault: Well thank you, Dr. Schwendemann, for being here with us today and for sharing all this great information. For more information about our expert, as well as our panelists that are on our shows, you can visit our episode page on our website. This conversation continues for members of our Preggie Pals Club. After the show we’re going to talk about what hormones or what changes may stay with you after you have your baby. Sometimes we think that it’s all going to magically go away after the baby comes out, and that isn’t necessarily the case. So stick around for that. If you want more information on how to join our club, visit our website, PreggiePals.com.

[Theme Music]


[Featured Segments: The Best Online Pregnancy Resources. Birth Center or Homebirth?]

Sunny Gault: Before we wrap up today’s show here’s Jeanette McCulloch with some of the best online pregnancy resources.

Jeanette McCulloch: Hello, Preggie Pals. I’m Jeanette McCulloch of Birthswell. We at Birthswell believe that you as a mother will make the right health decisions for your pregnancy and birth when you have access to evidence-based information and a strong support system. That’s why I’m here to share with you new media tools to find the information that’s right for you. Have you decided where you are having your baby yet? A small but growing number of women with low risk pregnancies are choosing to have their babies either at home or in a free standing birth center. One hundred years ago nearly everyone gave birth at home. By the 1950s 90% of all women gave birth in the hospital, mostly with an obstetrician. Today most of us are unfamiliar with what a birth center or homebirth might look like, especially with a midwife.

Midwives are considered to be experts in normal, natural childbirth and provide care that is centered around the mother and her baby. This means that your midwife will monitor your wellbeing, provide you with individual attention and education and minimized intervention at your birth. If midwives are experts in low risk births it also means you will be referred to an obstetrician if you need extra care. One of the benefits of midwifery care is fewer interventions, like Caesarian birth. Of course, midwives deliver babies in all settings, from hospitals to homebirth.

But for those of you considering an out of hospital birth the website MothersNaturally.org gives you all of the information you need to decide if a home or birth center birth is for you. On the site you’ll find research on homebirth safety, natural birth stories and details on what to expect from a homebirth. You will also find a searchable database of homebirth midwives, a due date calculator and a week by week newsletter designed specially for women planning a natural birth. There’s also the latest installments of “I’m a midwife”, a video series designed specifically for mothers to hear midwives speak about the passion they bring to their work. You can find the site at MothersNaturally.org.
Thanks for listening to today’s tools for finding the information that’s right for you and be sure to listen to Preggie Pals for more great pregnancy tips in the future.

[Theme Music]

Sunny Gault: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Preggie Pals. Don’t forget to check out our sister show Parent Savers, for parents with newborns, infants and toddlers, and our show The Boob Group, for moms who breastfeed their babies. Next week we’re talking about baby-friendly hospitals – what does it mean and does giving birth at one of these hospitals really make a difference? This is Preggie Pals – your pregnancy, your way.

This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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