Progesterone and Pregnancy

Sex hormones' functions are intricately intertwined with one another, especially concerning those linked with progesterone during pregnancy. While some rise, others fall, all to maintain homeostasis within the aspiring mother's body and provide the best environment possible for the growing fetus.

Accordingly, progesterone is the most important hormone needed to bring a baby to term; progesterone and fertility go hand in hand. Without it, conception would never occur.

Continue reading to learn more about progesterone in pregnancy, including the hormone's fluctuations while expecting and the various sites of the hormone's production in each stage.

Progesterone during Pregnancy

To begin with, high levels of progesterone are required throughout pregnancy; these levels will rise steadily until parturition.

Until around the tenth week, the corpus luteum produces progesterone. Subsequently, maternal levels of progesterone will gradually ascend, always being higher than those of estrogen.

During this time, progesterone in early pregnancy fulfills various roles in the mother's body. The hormone increases blood flow to the womb by encouraging the growth and maintenance of blood vessels and glands in the uterine lining. It also prompts uterine glands to produce embryo-sustaining nutrients, stimulates the endometrium to grow and thicken, and helps establish the placenta.

Once the cells that make up the placenta – known as trophoblasts – begin converting cholesterol to progesterone, the placenta takes over progesterone production mid to late pregnancy.

Placental progesterone production helps correctly develop the fetus, prevents muscle contraction until labor, restrains lactation until post-partum, and strengthens the muscles of the pelvic wall in preparation for labor.

What initiates the labor process when the baby is ready to be born is complex and not fully understood, but a sudden drop in high progesterone levels is believed to be one of the causes. 

Progesterone after Pregnancy

Following the birth of the placenta, progesterone levels descend rapidly, allowing prolactin to begin producing milk in the mother's body. Prolactin levels decline within two weeks for women who choose not to breastfeed and remain elevated for lactating women.

It is reported that within three days of post-partum, progesterone levels are undetectable, and progesterone production is not reestablished until the first menses post-partum.

From then on, progesterone will begin normal menstrual cycle fluctuations until another pregnancy occurs or until the end of reproductive years.

Continue reading to learn more about progesterone and menopause and how the hormone's functions shift accordingly as fertility comes to an end.

Bibliography

  • Kumar, P. & Magon, N. (2012). Hormones in pregnancy. Nigerian Medical Journal, 53(4), 179-183. doi: 10.4103/0300-1652.107549
  • Lawrence, R.A. & Lawrence, R.M. (2016). Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, Eighth Edition. Pennsylvania: Elsevier. Available from Google Books.
  • National Women's Health Resource Center. (n.d.). Progesterone. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/progesterone
  • Ricci, S.S. & Kyle, T. (2009). Maternity and Pediatric Nursing. Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Available from Google Books.
  • Society of Endocrinology. (n.d.). Hormones of pregnancy and labour | Progesterone. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/topical-issues/hormones-of-pregnancy-and-labour/ | http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Progesterone.aspx