Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands (there are 2) each weighs about 4 grams and sits on top of a kidney. Each gland is actually 2 glands in one.

Pregnancy does not cause much change in the size of the adrenal glands themselves, but there are changes in some of their secretions and activity. One of the key changes is the marked increase in cortisol. Cortisol is a "glucocorticoid." Glucocorticoids are particularly helpful in times of long and short term stress. They:

Often, exogenous steroids are administered to the pregnant woman who is at high risk for delivery of a preterm infant. Steroids, such as betamethasone and dexamethasone, have been shown to accelerate fetal lung maturity by synthesis of surfactant. It's important to expect maternal blood sugar levels to rise, higher than normal after steroid administration. Blood sugars should be evaluated in light of the steroid administration, and if possible, glucose screening deferred until another time.

Aldosterone production is increased during pregnancy. It normally regulates absorption of sodium from the distal tubules of the kidney. During pregnancy, progesterone allows salt to be "wasted", or lost in the urine. Aldosterone is produced in increased amounts by the adrenal glands as early as 15 weeks of pregnancy.

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