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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

all of the following substance move in in and out of cell except
Mohd Reply
all of the following substance move in and out of cells except
Mohd
Which signaling molecule is most likely responsible for an increase in digestive activity?
Tonya Reply
Hi I think it is DNA
libim
Homeostatasis return to the body to a healthy state after a stressful stimuli by producing
Ofosu Reply
There are some people suffering serious injured what will we do in doing X-ray?
Jefford Reply
observe bone arrangements n associated structures like soft tissues muscles in general the radiographical changes
Terry
epithelial tissue lines blood vessels
Laura Reply
what is difference between anabolism and catabolism in simple language
Chinaza Reply
anabolism simply means building up while catabolism breaking down
Maaruf
building up and breaking down
odeh
explain respiratory centers
Tharshana Reply
which enzyme help in excretion of bile
Sakshi Reply
how conversion of Beta-carotiene into vitamin-A takes place
Sakshi
best reference books for anatomy pls suggest that
Sakshi
what is gross anatomy
Saroj Reply
The study of large structure of the body
Mablean
macroscopic anatomy (Gross anatomy)
odeh
manipulation of structures without aid of microscope due to their size
libim
what is scrotum
Dakshit Reply
a bag of skin near the penis which contains the testicles
Mablean
hi
Sardar
its me Sardar from kpk pakistan
Sardar
Why are you on my digits
Mablean
hi
Kryme
it is part if male organ that hold testis in position it also regulates temperature
libim
how does it work?
Uriah Reply
I want to know the fertilization process in human
Nana Reply
Which plane divides the body into right and left parts
Kaeze
sagittal plane
Irvin
Thank you
Kaeze
Homestatic regulations usually involves a (n) _ that detects a particular stimulus, and a(n) _that respond to the stimulus by communicating with a (n) _whose activity has an effect on the same stimulus.
Kaeze
A cell is producing proteins to be transported out of that cell. They will be processed on ribosomes that are
Kaeze
what are diseases in the bood
Azoyenime Reply
Haemophilia
Aliyu
right hypochondriac rision how meain word
Ganesh Reply
Diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus would most likely be indicated by ________.
Ganesh
oral cavity how miean
Ganesh Reply
oral cavity how mean what
Suresh
seems to me every one is here a doctor and worse part is that even they donot know what to ask.
Muhammad
they know what to ask the problem is how to ask it.too much broken english.
George
dear George ongeche I think if they ask these kind questions and telling themselves as HCPs or medical student's .these are the basic ones go ask something more interesting .
Muhammad

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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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