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Serotonin Hormones During Pregnancy: What Effects Does It Have?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 13, 2022

Serotonin Hormones During Pregnancy: What Effects Does It Have?

A lot of hormonal changes happen to a mother during her pregnancy. Serotonin is one of the hormones whose levels go up during pregnancy. But what does serotonin do for the body, and what happens to serotonin hormones during pregnancy?

What Is Serotonin?

You might already be familiar with serotonin as a hormone that regulates your mood. Serotonin in the brain helps manage feelings of happiness, helps stabilize our mood, and even helps regulate anxiety. Depression has been associated to low levels of serotonin, while high levels of it in the body can cause a decrease in arousal.

But aside from the brain, serotonin can also affect other parts of our body. For one, it helps regulate bowel movements as well as bowel function in our stomach and intestines. When you become nauseous, the body responds by increasing serotonin levels to help control nausea.

Serotonin also plays a role in a person’s sleeping habits. In particular, it affects REM or rapid eye movement during sleep. REM sleep is important since this is a type of deep sleep that allows the brain to retain memories and is also essential to learning.

Low levels of serotonin, aside from being associated with depression, anxiety, etc. have also been associated with osteoporosis. This is a disease that makes the bones weaker.

Based on all of this information, you can easily surmise that serotonin plays an important role in our body1. But what about pregnancy?

What Happens to Serotonin Hormones During Pregnancy?

Now that we know what serotonin is, we can talk about what happens to serotonin hormones during pregnancy. As the woman’s body gets ready for pregnancy, a number of changes happen in her body. Her body regulates these changes through the different levels of hormones, which essentially tell the body that it needs to get ready to carry a baby.

As far as serotonin hormones during pregnancy goes, it tends to go up during pregnancy. In particular, it goes up during the second trimester as well as the third trimester of pregnancy. But interestingly, during late pregnancy and the few months after giving birth, the levels of serotonin tend to go down. In most women, their serotonin levels usually go back to normal a few weeks after delivery2.

However, some women can experience low levels of serotonin even after they’ve just given birth. This has been linked to postpartum depression and other similar conditions.

How Does It Affect the Mother and Her Baby?

One of the more noticeable effects of serotonin hormones during pregnancy is with regard to mood swings. As the levels of serotonin go up and down during pregnancy, mood swings can be a possible effect.

Another study3 found that serotonin affects the body’s insulin response during pregnancy. They found that since the mother is also feeding her baby while she’s pregnant, the body’s metabolism adapts in order to account for the extra nutrition needed by the baby. What happens is that the woman’s body increases its resistance to insulin, and in turn, the body also produces more insulin in order to balance things out.

A separate study4 found that serotonin levels can increase the risk of autism in a baby. However, their study found that this might have more to do with the use of SSRIs or drugs that synthetically increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs have not been contraindicated during pregnancy, and the researchers found a link between its usage and autism.

There is also some evidence5 to show that high levels of serotonin during pregnancy can affect the baby’s brain development. The researchers tested their hypothesis on mice, and found that an infection during pregnancy can increase the levels of serotonin in the mother’s body. In turn, this secondary increase in serotonin halts the growth of fetal neurons which can affect the brain.

However, it is important to note that they discovered that this happens usually when the mother experiences an infection during pregnancy.

Key Takeaways

Serotonin hormones during pregnancy play an important role in the body. During pregnancy, serotonin levels also go up and can cause changes that affect both the mother and her unborn baby. This is why it is important for pregnant mothers to go to regular checkups so that they can keep tabs on the health of their unborn child.

Learn more about Pregnancy here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated May 13, 2022

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