Being pregnant for the first time is a whirlwind of exciting experiences, new symptoms and confusing medical terms. With so much “new” being thrown your way, it’s normal to have an ever-growing list of questions and concerns.
At Belly Bandit, we know what it’s like to be a first-time mom-to-be. We want to help shorten that list of worries by explaining one common pregnancy term: relaxin.
What is relaxin?
In simple terms, relaxin is a hormone that encourages muscles and ligaments to relax and loosen. It’s classified as a polypeptide and is similar to insulin in its molecular structure. If someone mentions the word relaxin, pregnancy usually isn’t too far behind. That is because relaxin plays an important part in helping you both conceive and deliver your baby.
But pregnancy isn’t the only time relaxin is present in your body. This hormone is also released each month during the second part of your menstrual cycle—the luteal phase, when you’re ovulating. Though the purpose of relaxin during this stage of your cycle is not completely understood, it’s thought to help soften your cervix in order to increase your fertility and likelihood of conceiving, plus relax the lining of your uterine wall to make it easier for a fertilized egg to implant successfully. If you do not become pregnant during ovulation, your relaxin levels will drop until the next time you ovulate.
How early is relaxin released in pregnancy?
Technically, the answer is immediately, since it is a normal part of your menstrual cycle. You have some lower levels of the relaxin hormone already in your system before you become pregnant.
However, if you successfully conceive during ovulation, your relaxin levels will rapidly increase and eventually peak during your first trimester. When you have higher levels of the relaxin hormone, pregnancy viability increases dramatically. This is because it not only helps your body to be more fertile and receptive to implantation, but it also relaxes your uterus during the first trimester, which helps prevent contractions and other sudden internal movements that might dislodge the fertilized egg and result in a miscarriage.
What does relaxin feel like in pregnancy?
Even though relaxin during pregnancy is at a much higher level than any other time in your life, you are unlikely to notice any significant changes. This is because most of the effects of relaxin during pregnancy are happening internally as it works to change the structure and stiffness of your muscles, ligaments and organs to prepare them to handle the strain of pregnancy and delivery.
There is one symptom, though, that is extremely common during the first trimester and may be exacerbated by relaxin—gastrointestinal issues. Sometimes, relaxin does its job a little too well and decreases your normal gut motions. This sudden reduction in movement can result in constipation, indigestion and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Fortunately, these symptoms often subside later on in pregnancy as relaxin levels decrease.
Can you have too much relaxin in your body?
Yes. Relaxin in pregnancy is beneficial, but it is possible to have too much or too little. Typically, relaxin levels are at their highest during the first trimester, then slowly decrease throughout your pregnancy. Some studies have found that having higher levels of relaxin during later stages of pregnancy may be associated with preterm birth. Similarly, having too little relaxin may increase your insulin resistance, which makes you more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
How long does relaxin stay in your body?
Relaxin doesn’t just disappear as soon as you give birth. Relaxin will actually linger for several months postpartum while your body works to stabilize your hormones and return them to their normal, pre-pregnancy levels.
Since the relaxin from pregnancy will still be present in your body for a while, you’ll want to make sure you are doing low-impact exercises and wearing supportive clothing to help encourage muscles and ligaments to return to their normal positions and prevent over-stretching.
What are the effects of relaxin during pregnancy?
The main effect of the relaxin hormone during pregnancy is the stretching and loosening of bones and connective tissue. This relaxing of your muscles and joints begins during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle and continues well into postpartum recovery.
The important thing to remember is relaxin circulates throughout your entire body. It’s not just limited to your reproductive system. Many women find it difficult to maintain their balance and equilibrium during the final stages of pregnancy. This is partially due to relaxin loosening muscles in the body to create more flexibility.
Another common symptom of relaxin during late pregnancy is increased pain and discomfort. Sometimes, relaxin does its job a little too well and loosens muscles so much that they become less supportive.
How Belly Bandit Belly Bands Can Help
Now that you’re an expert on relaxin, you understand how hard it is for your muscles, bones and ligaments to return to their regular positions while relaxin levels are still high. During postpartum recovery, your body needs all the extra help and support it can get. That’s where a belly band comes in.
Belly Bandit Belly Bands help support weakened muscles in your core, back and hips to alleviate pain and discomfort that’s partially caused by relaxin’s loosening effects. Using compression technology, Belly Bandit Belly Bands promote healthy blood flow and better blood circulation throughout your body to dilute higher concentrations of relaxin and encourage faster overall healing.
When it comes time for your postpartum recovery, make sure you invest in a belly wrap that can help ease pain and may speed up your recovery process. Relaxin is a powerful hormone that’s very good at what it does, so don’t let your body fight off its effects alone. Help it along by using one of our Belly Wraps to support, sculpt and shape your body as it processes the final remnants of relaxin out of your system.