Hormonal Imbalance and Pregnancy
Hormones are chemicals that are produced by glands in the endocrine system. The hormones travel through the bloodstream delivering messages to organs and tissues signalling them on what to do and when to do it. Hormones are essential for regulating most major bodily processes. They help to regulate heart rate, metabolism and appetite, reproductive cycles and sexual function, body temperature, mood and stress levels, general growth and development, and sleep cycles.
Too little or too much of a hormone in the bloodstream is referred to as hormonal imbalance, and it can affect a wide range of bodily functions. Both men and women alike can be affected by imbalances in growth hormones, insulin, adrenaline, and steroids. Women may experience imbalances in oestrogen and progesterone levels, while men are more likely to experience imbalances in testosterone levels.
However, women are at a risk of developing different types of hormonal imbalance disorders than men because they have different endocrine organs and cycles. Women naturally experience several periods of hormonal imbalance throughout their lifetime including during menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes significant changes to help with the development of the baby. The hormonal changes in the first trimester completely alter the way the woman perceives the world through the senses of taste, smell and sight. There are significant changes in heart and kidney functions, increase in body fat, as well as physiological changes to the uterus and breasts. These changes are due to hormones produced by the mother’s glands and the placenta, and each of them impacting the mother in their own way. These pregnancy hormones include human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), progesterone, oestrogen, prolactin, human placental lactogen and renin. These changes in pregnant women can be overwhelming as it can make their regular schedules a little more complicated than usual.
Hormonal imbalance may also affect fertility. Some of the hormones that will significantly impact the ability to become pregnant and maintain a pregnancy are;
- Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4): these hormones primarily impact metabolic rate and digestion, but they are also inextricably tied to reproduction.
- Progesterone: hormone progesterone is essential to maintaining a pregnancy. It helps thicken the uterus lining to support an embryo.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): FSH is directly linked to fertility as its key function is to help induce egg production in the ovaries and regulate the menstrual cycle. Women who have a loss of ovarian function often have higher FSH levels as their bodies are trying to compensate for this dysfunction.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH): this hormone signals the body to release mature eggs produced.
- Prolactin: abnormal prolactin levels can cause issues with ovulation and ultimately with conception.
- Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH): hormone produced by ovarian follicles to support immature eggs.
There are various ways to treat a hormonal imbalance and increase the likelihood of conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy. Treatments for hormonal imbalances are highly customized, as each hormonal imbalance is different. Medication is commonly used to induce ovulation, restore thyroid function, normalize prolactin levels, and trigger the release of a mature egg.