Vigor Buddy| Relaxin Hormone Explained: Everything to Know About Relaxin |Every human body has dozens of hormones coursing through it, regulating functions from the molecular breakdown of food to our mood and emotions. Most people are familiar with well-known hormones like insulin (blood sugar regulation), but far fewer are familiar with another hormone in the same family called relaxin.
Even though it’s associated with pregnancy, everyone produces some amount of this hormone regardless of sex or gender. What is relaxin, what does it do, and why do we have it?
Read on for everything you need to understand about this little-known but important hormone.
What Is Relaxin?
Relaxin is a hormone, meaning it’s a chemical made by your body’s endocrine system that works as a messenger.
In people with a uterus, it’s produced inside a structure called the corpus luteum. This part of the uterus makes quite a few hormones that support pregnancy and menstruation, most notably progesterone. After it’s secreted in the uterus, relaxin circulates through the bloodstream.
In people with testes, relaxin is made in the prostate gland. It can be found in semen, but it doesn’t end up circulating in the blood.
What Does Relaxin Do in Your Body?
The relaxin hormone plays a part in many of our bodies’ repair processes. Scientists believe that it promotes faster wound healing. It also helps to decrease inflammation-related fibrosis, or scarring, on many internal organs.
Relaxin also acts as a vasodilator. This means it relaxes the walls of veins and arteries, lowering blood pressure. The combination of vasodilation and improved healing makes it a potential treatment for conditions like heart failure.
Relaxin produced in the prostate might help to boost sperm movement in semen, but researchers still don’t know much about its role.
Even though it has widespread effects on the rest of the body, relaxin is most important during menstruation and pregnancy.
The Role of Relaxin in Pregnancy
In the menstrual cycle, relaxin levels are highest in the second half of the 28 days. Like other reproductive hormones, it plays a role in getting the uterus ready for a pregnancy. Relaxin, in particular, prevents contractions, making it easier for an egg to implant.
If pregnancy doesn’t occur, relaxin levels drop, and the uterus contracts to shed its lining during menstruation. If an egg does implant, relaxin stays at work.
The levels of relaxin hormone in pregnancy are highest during the first three months after conception. Experts think that this helps relax the muscles in the uterine wall to accommodate a growing fetus. It also continues to prevent contractions, lowering the chances of an early, unviable delivery.
Relaxin levels drop off after the first trimester. They don’t come back strongly into play until the end of pregnancy. When the body is getting ready for delivery, relaxin releases tight muscles and ligaments in the cervix and pelvis so they stretch enough to let the baby pass through.
Researchers think that relaxin plays other roles during pregnancy, too. Even so, there hasn’t been enough research in humans to identify its full impact.
The Effects of Low Relaxin Levels
There hasn’t been much research into the effects of relaxin imbalance. Even so, scientists have a few theories about what could happen if you have too little or too much.
Some think that a severe relaxin deficiency could lead to scleroderma. This progressive condition thickens the skin and the body’s internal membranes. Over time, it can stiffen joints, decrease mobility, and even harden internal organs.
One clinical trial showed that treating scleroderma patients with relaxin helped relieve the symptoms of this terrible disease. Participants wore a pump to get a constant drip of the hormone into their bodies. Some reported less thickening of the skin and a decrease in shortness of breath after the treatment.
The Effects of High Relaxin Levels
If you have too much relaxin, you’ll probably be fine in everyday life. There aren’t any chronic conditions associated with this imbalance.
However, pregnant women with high relaxin levels could lose their pregnancy early. Some experts think a lack of this hormone can lead to ruptured uterine membranes and early delivery. This theory has yet to be proven in practice.
Less severe cases of high relaxin in pregnancy can still cause discomfort. Some people may experience pubic symphysis dysfunction as the ligaments in their pelvis loosen.
While this condition isn’t often dangerous, it can be painful and keep you from being able to walk. Doctors recommend using a pelvic support band and attending physiotherapy for relief.
Relaxin Hormone as a Supplement
In light of the helpful benefits this hormone provides, some people take it as a supplement. Relaxin hormone supplements claim to improve sleep, inflammation, and wound healing, among other things.
Before you take relaxin supplements, remember that they aren’t FDA tested or regulated. Some people may find that it reduces pain associated with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, but others won’t notice a difference or will have negative side effects.
Hormone supplements are part of a well-rounded treatment plan, not a cure for diseases. As with any substance, ask a medical professional before you take it to ensure your safety, and only buy it from a reputable provider.
Talk to Your Doctor About Relaxin
Whether you think your relaxin levels are out of balance or you’re curious about the benefits of taking it as a supplement, it’s important to talk to your doctor first. They’ll be able to go through the pros and cons with you and decide the best way to help your body regain balance.
For more information on health and how the human body works, make sure to read through the other articles on our site.