Hormone of Pregnancy: HCG and Early Pregnancy Symptoms

The connection between those two fateful lines and hCG.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is produced during pregnancy, by the placenta. This is actually the hormone that pregnancy tests are designed to detect. The level of hCG is often relevant to the viability of a pregnancy. Following a miscarriage, the hCG is frequently tested to ensure that the miscarriage is complete and no further specialized care is required.

In nearly all healthy, viable pregnancies the amount of hCG present will double every two to three days following conception. An hCG reading of 25mIU/ml or higher is considered positive for pregnancy, but a reading of 5mIU/ml or less is considered negative. Once the hCG reading reaches between 1,000 and 2,000mIU/ml a gestational sac should be visible through a transvaginal ultrasound, another indication that a pregnancy is developing as planned.

At 25 to 40 weeks past a woman’s last menstrual period her hCG reading will typically register somewhere between 3,640 and 117,000 mIU/ml. Every woman’s reading may be slightly different, because the hormone develops in different concentrations in every woman. What matters is that the hormone has continued to develop or double at a normal rate.

In early pregnancy both extremely low and extremely high hCG readings can be cause for concern. However, most women will fall well within the average range and go on to have successful, healthy pregnancies. It is unusual for doctors to check hCG levels throughout pregnancy, as it is primarily used to detect pregnancy. However, individuals who are struggling with fertility or prone to certain conditions may undergo more in depth testing.

Visit the American Pregnancy Association to learn more about the role of hCG in human pregnancy.


Hormones of Pregnancy Series: Flexible Effects of Relaxin

During pregnancy a special type of hormone produced by the placenta, known as relaxin, is released in abundance. The hormone, quite fittingly, causes muscles to relax and stretch. This stretching is necessary to help the body accommodate an ever-growing uterus as it stretches from around the size of a tennis ball, to something large enough to support a seven pound baby or two. This hormone also helps to expand the blood vessels without raising blood pressure, help the ligaments to stretch, and all around loosen up a pregnant woman’s body.

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Understanding the Signs of Postpartum Depression

A woman’s body goes through many changes immediately after the birth of her baby. The drastic flood and release of hormones caused by labor and delivery has quite an effect on the human body. There are benefits to these changes, such as the mighty endorphins released during labor transition to ease pain, the oxytocin rush that forever bonds us to our babies, and the rush of prolocatin that kicks milk production into overdrive. However, the side effect of this major hormonal rush is that it can leave some women mentally drained and quite depressed.

Postpartum depression is more than just the blues. It goes beyond the bittersweet sadness that many new mothers experience immediately following birth. It is more than just boredom, frustration, or a period of adjustment. Serious postpartum depression, left untreated, can linger for years and in some cases a lifetime.

Women who find themselves suffering from more than just a touch of the blues, are far from alone. At least 15 to 20% of new mothers are believed to  suffer from this condition. So what are the signs and furthermore what can be done to correct the condition?

Signs of Postpartum Depression

It’s vital for new mothers, their partners, and their families to understand the signs of postpartum depression. Any indication that the disorder may be present should be taken seriously. There are multiple resources for getting help including talk therapy, natural remedies, and prescription medications. All of these options, included prescription medication, can be safely administered to breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers alike.

Indicators of postpartum depression include:

  • Overwhelming sadness or down feelings usually manifesting around five days after the birth of a new baby and lasting two or more weeks
  • Feelings of unexplained anger and hostility, irritability
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Lack of appetite or over eating
  • Thoughts of harming one’s self or baby
  •  Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and people

Women who suffered from chronic depression before pregnancy are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. The same applies to those with a family history of the disorder.

Other risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • Diabetes (1,2, or gestational)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Breastfeeding or pregnancy complications
  • Unexpected outcome (as in receiving an emergency cesarean after planning a natural delivery)
  • Marital or financial stress
  • Single parenthood
  • Twins or more
  • Major life events (new job, loss of a home, bankruptcy marriage, divorce, death in the family, ETC.)

Getting Help

If you find that you or someone you love is suffering from postpartum depression, get help as soon as possible. Most midwives, doctors, and doulas will screen patients for postpartum depression following birth, though not ever case is easily recognized by outsiders.

Speaking with a physician or therapist is typically a step in the right direction. For more information on getting help for postpartum depression visit Postpartum Support International.