How Is Estrogen Produced During Pregnancy?
In the female (and male!) body, estrogen is produced by a variety of tissues, but in females, it is primarily produced by the corpus luteum in the ovaries. However, the placenta largely takes over during pregnancy, leading to a sharp increase in estrogen production. Estradiol is a woman’s main source of estrogen while she is ovulating, and estriol is an estrogen produced by the placenta.
Interestingly, estrogen formation is a team effort! Unlike the corpus luteum, the placenta is unable to convert cholesterol into estrogen. Instead, it uses an estrogen precursor produced by the fetus.
What Does Estrogen Do During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, estrogen has many key effects. It helps develop the placenta and the network needed to bring nutrients and waste to and from the growing baby. For the fetus itself, maternal estrogen triggers the development of organs like the lungs, liver, and endocrine glands.
Increased estrogen levels in a mother’s body aid in uterine growth, uterine lining maintenance, uterine and placental blood flow, and vascularization (the growth of new blood vessels).
Additionally, increased estrogen inhibits the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH), which prevents ovulation during pregnancy.
As the pregnancy progresses, estrogen also encourages milk production, breast tissue growth, and body preparation for delivery and breastfeeding.
These elevated estrogen levels can have other effects as well. Hyperpigmented skin (usually temporary), and a stuffy nose during pregnancy are both estrogen-linked complaints. Because it triggers increased blood volume, estrogen can also add to spider veins, swelling, nausea, tender breasts, and more frequent trips to the bathroom (you know, in addition to the growing baby tap dancing on top of your bladder).
Melasma, also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” may be related to the metabolism of folate during pregnancy, estrogen, or other hormones. Anywhere on the face, including the forehead, the cheeks, and the chin, can develop patches of light to dark brown skin. Melasma is very common during pregnancy, and it frequently goes away or gets better by itself after giving birth. Utilizing sunscreen and limiting exposure to the sun can stop skin darkening from getting worse.
Your areolas, nipples, and other parts of your body can become darker due to estrogen.
Your skin may appear red and blotchy or you may have patches of red, dry skin because of estrogen. You may notice more redness on your skin because it increases blood flow and circulation.
On the plus side, many women report having a “pregnancy glow” as a result of the rise in estrogen and blood flow to the skin.
Together with other hormones, estrogen helps to maintain pregnancy, and estrogen is essential for a healthy, full term. Estrogen keeps the placenta and uterine lining healthy and allows the uterus to expand to accommodate the growing baby. In addition to regulating other vital pregnancy hormones, estrogen also aids in the development of the fetal organs.
Helps Carry a Baby to Term
Estrogen is a major hormone that interacts with numerous minor hormones, including the previously mentioned estradiol. Because they are produced by the placenta and ovaries in women, estrogen hormones are essential for carrying pregnancies to term. They accomplish this by maintaining the uterine lining, which offers a secure environment for the baby’s growth. Additionally, they assist in controlling other hormones like progesterone, which are crucial for fetal growth.