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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain how estrogen, progesterone, and hCG are involved in maintaining pregnancy
  • List the contributors to weight gain during pregnancy
  • Describe the major changes to the maternal digestive, circulatory, and integumentary systems during pregnancy
  • Summarize the events leading to labor
  • Identify and describe each of the three stages of childbirth

A full-term pregnancy lasts approximately 270 days (approximately 38.5 weeks) from conception to birth. Because it is easier to remember the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) than to estimate the date of conception, obstetricians set the due date as 284 days (approximately 40.5 weeks) from the LMP. This assumes that conception occurred on day 14 of the woman’s cycle, which is usually a good approximation. The 40 weeks of an average pregnancy are usually discussed in terms of three trimesters , each approximately 13 weeks. During the second and third trimesters, the pre-pregnancy uterus—about the size of a fist—grows dramatically to contain the fetus, causing a number of anatomical changes in the mother ( [link] ).

Size of uterus throughout pregnancy

This figure shows a woman’s body and marks the size of the uterus as it grows throughout pregnancy.
The uterus grows throughout pregnancy to accommodate the fetus.

Effects of hormones

Virtually all of the effects of pregnancy can be attributed in some way to the influence of hormones—particularly estrogens, progesterone, and hCG. During weeks 7–12 from the LMP, the pregnancy hormones are primarily generated by the corpus luteum. Progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum stimulates the production of decidual cells of the endometrium that nourish the blastocyst before placentation. As the placenta develops and the corpus luteum degenerates during weeks 12–17, the placenta gradually takes over as the endocrine organ of pregnancy.

The placenta converts weak androgens secreted by the maternal and fetal adrenal glands to estrogens, which are necessary for pregnancy to progress. Estrogen levels climb throughout the pregnancy, increasing 30-fold by childbirth. Estrogens have the following actions:

  • They suppress FSH and LH production, effectively preventing ovulation. (This function is the biological basis of hormonal birth control pills.)
  • They induce the growth of fetal tissues and are necessary for the maturation of the fetal lungs and liver.
  • They promote fetal viability by regulating progesterone production and triggering fetal synthesis of cortisol, which helps with the maturation of the lungs, liver, and endocrine organs such as the thyroid gland and adrenal gland.
  • They stimulate maternal tissue growth, leading to uterine enlargement and mammary duct expansion and branching.

Relaxin, another hormone secreted by the corpus luteum and then by the placenta, helps prepare the mother’s body for childbirth. It increases the elasticity of the symphysis pubis joint and pelvic ligaments, making room for the growing fetus and allowing expansion of the pelvic outlet for childbirth. Relaxin also helps dilate the cervix during labor.

The placenta takes over the synthesis and secretion of progesterone throughout pregnancy as the corpus luteum degenerates. Like estrogen, progesterone suppresses FSH and LH. It also inhibits uterine contractions, protecting the fetus from preterm birth. This hormone decreases in late gestation, allowing uterine contractions to intensify and eventually progress to true labor. The placenta also produces hCG. In addition to promoting survival of the corpus luteum, hCG stimulates the male fetal gonads to secrete testosterone, which is essential for the development of the male reproductive system.

Questions & Answers

What is the skin
Astony Reply
What is physiology?
Njaleny Reply
it is the study of the structure of the human body and its reationship
Hannah
Physiology is the function of a living organism.
Tammy
It is the study of human body and how it works.
Excellent
It is d entrance to the uterus
Umunna Reply
It is a small sensitive part of female sex organ which is found above d entrance to the vagina
Umunna
A small hole in d skin which contains d root of a hair
Umunna
A thin membrane which covers d entrance to the vagina in young girls
Umunna
Is a gland that produces milk in women and other female mammals
Umunna
A repeated process in which a woman's uterus gets ready for pregnancy which ends in a period if she does not get pregnant
Umunna
hello
Tamba
hi sir
Mir
so in summary describe the level of structural complexity within the body
Freda Reply
how can we describe briefly the levels of organization
Frimpong
what is blood clotting
Yahya Reply
Tiny bits in your blood called platelets get "turned on" by triggers released when a blood vessel is damaged. They stick to the walls in the area and each other, changing shape to form a plug that fills in the broken part to stop blood from leaking out. When activated, platelets also release chemic
Nilesh
what is a cell membrane?
lameck Reply
the cell membrane also called the plasma membrane regulates the transport materials entering and existing the cell.
Frimpong
what's gonna happen if your body doesn't produce enough white blood cells?
Jovanna
how is speech controlled by the nervous system?
Joseph Reply
The broca's area
Udebuana
what does the HCG
Njaleny
chemical level cellular level tissue level organ level organ system level organism
Chidera Reply
Yes Yes because they can perform more than one activity in the body
Chidera
the functional and structural unit of the body
Chidera
A group of 2 or more tissue that come together to perform a specific function
Chidera
A group of organs that work together to perform a specific function or meet the physiological needs of the body
Chidera
It's the highest level of organization
Chidera
2 or more cells coming together to perform a specific function
Chidera
Skeletal muscles can be tetanized but not cardiac muscle.Discuss
Okeke Reply
what is regional anatomy?
Grace Reply
study of structures that contribute to specific body region
charles
what is human anatomy?
Sam
It's the study of the interrelationships of body structures in a specific region
TM
is the study of the structure of the body and the relationship between body systems
Frimpong
what is grey matter
OJO Reply
it is the major component of the central nervous system consisting of the neuronal cell bodies,neuropil,glial cells,capillaries and synapses
Frimpong
What is neuron cell
Dev Reply
neuron cell are the fundamental units of the brain and nervous system responsible for receiving sensory input from the external world, for sending motor commands to muscles and for transforming and relaying the electrical signals at every step in between
Serphine
What is the perfect defination of Life
Dev
What does a word muscles means ?
Abubakar
the perfect destination of life is to have life without flaws and defects.Alife where nothing can go wrong.
Frimpong
what is Anatomy
Hannah Reply
because she's not yet at term
Nansi Reply
what is physiology?
Grace Reply
what is physiology
David
Physiology is the study of the functions of the human body
Hannah
am a new one!!
sekela
what is Homeopathy
AHMED

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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