Hormones and Pregnancy: Life-Changing Lessons from an OB

Symptoms women experience, through their lives, often get dismissed as “hormones”.

It’s like “hormones” becomes an umbrella term. We use them to classify health-related symptoms with unclear origins. We can make these symptoms sound medical just by throwing out the term. Hormones are aloof enough to justify not chasing down a rabbit hole of diagnostics.

I will say this:

Hormones DO contribute significantly to an individual’s wellbeing. Their presence and contribution to our health matters. BUT, I don’t think that that one word can explain everything.

When you were a teenager was cramping and angst all hormonal changes? Or could it also have been contributed by shifting and demanding expectations? Peers, teachers, and parents all start to expect more out of us at this age.

When you’re pre or postpartum, is the weepiness entirely hormonal? Or is it also the heaviness of sacrifice? The shifting pangea of priorities? Letting go of one version of yourself? The exhaustion that society doesn’t seem to let us recover from or deal with?

I Decided to Talk to An Expert...

I wanted to talk with an experienced OB hormones and the female experience. Specifically during the pregnancy era. So, I summoned up a walk-and-talk with Dr. Tricia McLelland. Dr. McLelland graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University. She's double majored in Mathematics and Chemistry. Hormones are chemical messengers from one group of cells to another. So I knew she’d have an in-depth understanding of this topic.

Along with being an expert on women and hormones...she also studies vaginal ecology.

I expressed my concerns about the ubiquitousness of “hormones”. How they're blamed for so many female related issues:

  • Infertility
  • Postpartum depression
  • Pregnancy challenges
  • Musculoskeletal issues
  • So much more

Her response was a message that I hope falls upon open ears. It’s a simple, but powerful message. It's especially impactful knowing she holds a deep knowledge of the chemistry behind hormones, pregnancy, and our health.

Here's the gist:

Our bodies have the choice to produce hormones like progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen OR stress chemicals like cortisol that then create systemic inflammation.

Think of being at a crossroads and having to choose between 2 paths.

If we don’t sleep, eat, or move well, our bodies don’t naturally produce effective doses of hormones.

The first line of offense for keeping our hormones balanced is to manage our stress. We can do this through nutrition, exercise, and sleep hygiene. Not supplementation or injections.

The key is to find what resonates with you and your lifestyle. Start with getting higher quality and enough sleep. It’ll make making decisions about nutrition and movement easier down the road.

It almost seems too simple.

Hormone Tests

We also discussed how hormone panels don’t paint a full picture. They don't show how your body interacts with the hormones it produces. They don’t measure how much of those hormones your body’s hormone receptors are interacting with.

Your hormones could appear at “normal” levels. But actually... they're not getting into their cars to drive to where they need to go. And do what they need to do.

On the flip side, your hormone levels could appear abnormal on a test. But the test won't show if your body's needs are met.

We live in a data-driven world. Most people are scientifically minded. So it can be hard to accept that science still isn’t all-inclusive or all-indicative.

Always feel free and empowered to ask your doctor questions. Ask about implications both short and long-term are for any test result.

Understanding our bodies is key to respecting them.


Fascinating Pregnancy Hormone Facts


  • The placenta manufactures the hormones estrogen, progesterone, human placental lactogen, and human chorionic gonadotropin.


  • The human chorionic gonadotropin hormone plays a part in nausea and vomiting during first trimesters. This is the hormone that, gives the + for home pregnancy tests.


  • Progesterone is important for getting pregnant. It prepares your uterus lining for the egg to implant. It also is a muscle relaxant. It prevents the uterus from contracting until its delivery time!


  • Estrogen promotes extra blood flow. This extra blood flow to our dermis is what can contribute the the “pregnancy glow”. It’s also what can make breasts feel so tender.


  • Relaxin is the hormone that gets attributed to many pregnancy aches and pains. Its main purpose is to promote the growth of the placenta and keep uterus muscles relaxed. 


  • Estrogen and progesterone are at their highest levels around 32 weeks of pregnancy. At this point, they —six times higher than before pregnancy.


  • Prolactin stimulates milk production. It's 10xs higher at the end of your pregnancy than it is in a non-pregnant state.


  • Oxytocin helps with happiness and nursing. It can also stimulate uterine contractions. This is why you feel so uncomfortable and crampy when you first start nursing.


  • The thyroid hormone plays a major role in the development of our nervous systems. Do you want to be extra thorough about your health while pregnant? Then it's a good time to talk to your doctor about your thyroid function.


  • Ghrelin sounds like a Lord of the Rings character.  This is the hunger hormone. It tells the hypothalamus of our brain that we’re hungry.  It is produced by the stomach where it promotes appetite.


  • Leptin is produced by fat cells when we eat. It signals satiation to the brain.


The Short Version

Hormones communicators are released directly into the bloodstream. There is a global and complex effect on every single person.

It’s like they can text an audience of a million followers simultaneously.

The best way to help them send a positive, effective response? Stress reduction.


Sign up for a FREE pregnancy Core workout.

Sign up to receive a free class learning how to protect and activate your core during pregnancy. Your information will not be shared.


50% Complete