The importance of hormones

Hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate many aspects of your pregnancy. The hormone progesterone is produced first by your ovaries and then by your placenta. It keeps your uterus from contracting. It also promotes growth of blood vessels in the walls of your uterus, essential for your baby's nourishment. Your ovaries and placenta also produce estrogen. It causes growth and changes in your uterus, endometrium, cervix, vagina and breasts. Estrogen also influences many key body processes, such as the amount of insulin you produce.

Your placenta produces two other important hormones: human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and human placental lactogen (HPL). HCG helps maintain the corpus luteum, which is the mass of cells that remain in the ovary after the egg's release from a mature follicle. HPL is the hormone most involved in your baby's growth. It alters your metabolism to make sugars and proteins more available to your baby. It also stimulates your breasts to develop and prepare to produce milk.

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