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Back Pain and Pregnancy: What is relaxin?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What is relaxin?

If you are pregnant you are well aware of the surge of hormones that has taken over your body. As soon as a woman is pregnant hormones flood through her body, often leading an expectant mother to wonder what happened to her former self. Many pregnant women tell me about feeling happy one minute and weeping the next. Others are plagued with acne, reflux, and low energy levels. This hormone flood may produce side effects that a mom could do without, but they all play a very important role in the development of your baby.

However, one, often maligned, hormone is very specifically important to the health of the pregnant woman. It is relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone produced during pregnancy that allows you to give birth! The way it works is complex, but generally it makes collagen breakdown happen at a much faster rate which causes the cervix and the pubic symphysis to soften and lengthen. It allows the baby to pass through the birth canal. This is a good thing for a pregnant woman.

Relaxin is a hormone that is always present in a woman's body, however during pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is present in 10 times its normal concentration. While relaxin is a great hormone in preparing for labor it can cause some unwanted side effects as well. Relaxin doesn't know the different between the pubis and any other joint in the body so it can lead to abnormal motion, which in turn leads to pain and inflammation. Most of this is mild and can be controlled with Tylenol. Some people are more affected by relaxin than others for reasons we don't entirely understand. Those who experience significant pain due to loosening joints can get relief with the practices listed here.

Upon delivery the raging hormones gradually go back into hibernation and loosey-goosey joints tighten up again. Relaxin has allowed the human body to do something that seems impossible. (Birthing a baby.) So let's hear it for relaxin. It gets a bad rap, but is your best friend come delivery day!

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