In pregnancy hormones from the extraembryonic membranes take over

If the egg is fertilized, and a blastocyst arrives in the uterus and implants in the endometrium, a new hormone comes into play. A layer of cells covering the blastocyst begins to secrete human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This gonadotropin, a molecule similar to LH, keeps the corpus luteum functional. Because hCG is present only in the blood of pregnant women, the presence of this hormone is the basis for pregnancy testing. Modern pregnancy tests make use of a monoclonal antibody to detect hCG in urine; thus, they take only minutes and can be done at home. These tests are so sensitive that they are 99 percent accurate and in most cases can detect a pregnancy even before the first missed menstrual period.

Tissues derived from the blastocyst also begin to produce estrogen and progesterone, eventually replacing the corpus luteum as the most important source of these sex steroids. Continued high levels of estrogen and progesterone prevent the pituitary from secreting gonadotropins; thus, the ovarian cycle ceases for the duration of pregnancy. The same mechanism is exploited by birth control pills, which contain synthetic hormones resembling estrogen and progesterone that prevent the ovarian cycle by exerting negative feedback control on the hypothalamus and pituitary.

Positive feedback occurs during days 12 through 14.

Anterior pituitary

Anterior pituitary


Estrogen and progesterone ©


Negative feedback occurs throughout most of the cycle.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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