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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

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Jackson Reply
Sign of anaemia or whitish color or Hgb luck
Kassahn
Are you talking of Polar anaemia or what, because the word polar doesnt have one meaning
Kingsley
what are the three types of adrenocorticoids hormones
Lubega Reply
glucocorticoids mineralocorticoid and catecholamines
Kartik
what is polar and non-polar
Jackson Reply
polar unequal share of electron while non polar is equal share
Quran
why are phosphate molecules negatively charged?
Jackson Reply
Bocz of unpaired elections
Javid
because of unpaired electrons
ABDULLAH
what are amphipathic molecules?
Jackson Reply
Amphipathic molecules are molecules with both polar and non polar regions
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MADUBULA Reply
Hw does the male organ develop
MADUBULA
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Aliyu
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Rugut Reply
it is an imagency condition resulting from abnormal and immediate alagic response to a substance to which the body has become intensively sensitized
Lubega
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ado Reply
drugs have no medical application (cocaine, heroin, crystal meth). medicine have medical purpose (fentanyl, albuterol, aspirin, ect ect)
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medicine is a substance or preparation used in treating disease,drug is chemical compound medicine are drugs but all drugs are not medicines
Wafa
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Sidra
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Sintung Reply
stomach
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saba Reply
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saba
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O-olfactory O-optic O-occumulator T-trochlear T-trigemenal A-abducent F-facial A-auditory G-glossopharyngeal V-vagus A-acessory
Aniee
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Read KD Tripathi book of Pharmacology.
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CT Scan means
Sintung
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Philip
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CT means - computerized tomography
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connective tissue
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Sintung
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saba
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Huma Reply
what's gangrene?
Sidra
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Huma Reply

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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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