Hormonal changes are a natural part of life for both men and women. While many people associate hormonal changes with women, they can have an impact on everyone, regardless of gender.
Hormones are signaling molecules that control many processes inside the human body. To understand hormones, it’s important to understand how the body communicates things between its different parts.
Understanding Fast and Slow Communication
The human body is equipped with fast and slow communication systems. Both of these systems are essential in their own unique ways. The fast communication system includes the nervous system and nerve fibers throughout the body. Whenever we move a muscle, our brain sends an electrical signal out to a set of nerve fibers that controls that muscle. When we feel pain, the area experiencing that pain sends out an electrical signal to the brain. These signals can be sent from one end of the body to the other in a fraction of a second. From our perspective as humans, they happen almost instantly.
The Hormone System
The other signaling system in the body is the slow communication system. This system relies on hormones and other signaling molecules in the body. Unlike the nervous system, the hormone system isn’t fast. While a nerve fiber can send information almost instantly, it can take hormones minutes, sometimes hours to travel from one end of the body to the other.
Hormones control long-term growth and other metabolic processes in the body. For example, the process of puberty is directed by a series of hormones that are released from the base of the brain. These hormones control the development of sexual characteristics in those going through puberty.
Hormones also control things such as muscle development, hunger, energy level, blood glucose levels and much more.
When Hormones Are Out of Control
As we age, hormone levels in our body start to change. Many people experience substantial hormone changes while they are going through puberty. Many of the strong emotional experiences that people have as teenagers are due to changes in hormone levels in the body.
Besides puberty, pregnancy is one of the greatest causes of hormone disruption in the body. During pregnancy, a series of hormones control fetal development. These hormones ensure that a developing baby has all the nutrients it needs for proper development. Hormones also help control the womb environment by regulating temperature, pH level, blood sugar levels and much more. For example, many women experience hot flashes during their pregnancy. These hot flashes are caused by the body adjusting its temperature to ensure that the womb is at the optimal temperature for a baby.
In addition to hot flashes, women may experience substantial changes in their emotional state during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body releases a cascade of hormones, including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones help prepare a pregnant woman for her upcoming motherhood. However, these hormones can also cause severe emotional disturbances at times.
After a mother gives birth, her brain is flooded with oxytocin. This hormone helps the mother to bond with her child. In research studies, participants who received oxytocin injections found it was easier to bond with complete strangers. This bonding hormone is nature’s way to ensure that a mother will be able to raise her child and care for its needs without any issues. Most important, it helps a mother feel like a child is truly their own.
If you’re experiencing severe hormonal changes during pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. In many cases, hormonal issues are a natural part of pregnancy and nothing to worry about. However, there can be situations where hormonal issues can signal a severe underlying problem.
While a primary care physician can be a good initial contact for these types of issues, it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist. An OB/GYN can provide specific pregnancy-related information for women who are experiencing hormonal issues. In some cases, a woman may also be referred to an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist specializes in hormone management and can help women manage their hormonal issues during their time of need.