After the baby’s delivery, the levels of the postpartum hormones increase drastically. Conversely, during this period, the estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, and irritability. These symptoms are collectively referred to as ‘baby blues’ and might cause difficulty in taking care of the baby or yourself. Thus, it is important to make sure that you understand the symptoms of change in the hormone levels postpartum and deal with them accordingly. Making certain changes in your daily life and seeking advice from your doctor can help make things easier for you. Read about postpartum hormones, their effect on the body, and ways to deal with the symptoms.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance After Pregnancy?
The primary cause of hormonal imbalance post delivery is the changing levels of the female reproductive hormones called estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are vital during pregnancy period and post-delivery, and an imbalance in their levels causes several physical and mental changes in the body.
The changes, however, are temporary and nothing to be worried about.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance Post Childbirth?
During pregnancy, the progesterone hormone is produced and regulated by the placenta to maintain a supportive environment inside the uterus (1). After the baby is born, there is a decrease in the progesterone level, which typically does not increase until the woman starts ovulating post childbirth (2). This, in turn, causes an increase in the estrogen level that leads to estrogen dominance.
How Does Estrogen Dominance Affect You Post Delivery?
Estrogen dominance gives rise to the following conditions:
- Hypothyroidism: A peak in the estrogen level causes an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This increases the level of thyroid-binding globulin produced by the liver, leading to Postpartum Thyroiditis (3). Increased estrogen levels can lead to stress that causes a rise in the cortisol level (4). This further leads to hypothyroidism.
- Adrenal fatigue: Estrogen dominance also cause adrenal fatigue, wherein the adrenal glands cannot produce enough cortisol as required by the body. This happens due to a drop in the progesterone level and increases fatigue and stress.
In addition to this, you may experience other physical and psychological changes.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hormonal Imbalance After Pregnancy?
The symptoms you experience due to hormonal imbalance post pregnancy are (2, 5, 6):
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss
- Mood swings and anxiety
- Hair loss
- Postpartum depression
- Allergies (7)
- Hot flashes
- Decreased libido
- Dry skin
- Irregular periods
- Breast milk issues (breast cysts or lumps)
- Heart palpitations
- Vaginal dryness
How Can Hormonal Imbalance Lead to Postpartum Depression Syndrome?
Postpartum depression is a result of the hormonal fluctuations occurring post childbirth. It occurs in around 10-20% of new mothers. It can begin at any time post delivery and can last up to one year. The symptoms of PDS include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and change in appetite among others.
However, clinical diagnosis of PDS followed by the right antidepressant medication can help alleviate the disorder. Moreover, counseling and follow-ups with a therapist can be effective in helping you get out of depression. Apart from medication, good food, regular exercises, yoga, and meditation can also help in recovery (8).
Ways To Restore Hormonal Balance Post Pregnancy
Here are some effective ways to restore the hormonal balance in your body after delivery:
- Avoid white food: Stay away from white foods including rice, bread, milk, pasta, and wafers, which are high in complex carbohydrates (9).
- Exercise: Engaging in physical activities will help reduce any stress and strain, promoting hormonal balance. Walking is a great way to boost your energy levels.
- Eat fiber-rich food: The excess fiber in your diet binds with the estrogen, thereby eliminating the excess estrogen from the body (10).
- Yoga: Practicing yoga helps alleviate anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness that in turn helps in restoring the hormonal balance.
- Avoid high-fat food: High-fat foods increase the estrogen level (11). Avoid vegetable oils that are believed to affect the estrogen level and eat plenty of fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Vitamin D: Taking vitamin D supplements and soaking in the sunlight (the primary source of vitamin D) can help compensate for vitamin D deficiency and control the estrogen level (12).
- Acupuncture: It is a Chinese practice that uses a blend of needling, herbs, and moxibustion that help in regulating the hormonal balance (13).
- Avoid birth control pills: As the body needs some time to get back to normalcy, it is better to avoid any birth control pills right after the delivery. It may trigger hormonal imbalance and trigger physiological or psychological changes (14), (15)
- Magnesium: Magnesium plays a significant role in balancing the hormonal level in the body (16). You can increase the intake of magnesium-rich foods or take supplements prescribed by the doctors.
- Say no to alcohol and caffeine: Consuming alcohol can lead to hormonal imbalance (17) and caffeine causes estrogen dominance (18).
- Avoid soy products: Soybeans are a rich source of a substance that is similar to estrogen and suppress the thyroid functions (19). Thus it is better to avoid soy products like soy milk, soy-based cereal, soy-protein, soy meats etc.
- Vitamin and mineral supplement: The body requires essential vitamins and minerals to maintain a hormonal balance inside the body (20). Thus taking vitamin and mineral supplements as per the direction of your doctor can help restore the hormonal levels in your body.
- Eat liver: The animal liver is a good source of vitamin A (21), which helps in restoring the hormonal balance after pregnancy.
- Consume egg yolk: Egg yolk is a good source of selenium, vitamin D and A (22) that help in restoring the hormonal balance. Thus, it is good to add it to your diet.
- Get enough sleep: Inadequate sleep causes hormonal imbalances in the body (23). Getting the right amount of sound sleep helps in the production of hormones, removing the toxins from the body and refreshing the mind. All these factors play an important role in maintaining a hormonal balance in the body.
- Avoid toxins: Exposure to toxins in the environment can also have an impact on the body, causing various health issues. To reduce the toxin exposure, you must go organic, replace plastic containers with glass ones, and avoid exposure to chemicals.
- Consume herbs: Certain herbs can restore the hormonal balance in the body. But, you must consider the doctor’s advice before taking any herbs. Here is the list of a few you can consider:
a. Chaste tree berry: It helps in raising the progesterone levels and also improves fertility (24).
b. Red raspberry leaf: It is rich in nutrients and is considered as a uterine tonic that helps in improving fertility and reducing cramping and PMS (25).
c. Origanum: It helps regulates the menstrual cycle by maintaining the hormonal levels (26).
d. Maca root powder: It is high in essential fatty acids and minerals and boosts hormonal production (27).
e. Evening primrose oil: Being high in essential fatty acid content, this essential oil help balance the hormonal level effectively (28).
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When do hormones change postpartum?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, alterations in hormones (drop in estrogen and progesterone) occur in the first 24 hours after childbirth (29). These changes may be the cause of various postpartum changes in a woman.
2. How long am I considered postpartum?
Research studies state that the postpartum period could be categorized into the initial phase (the first 6–12 hours postpartum), the subacute phase (lasting 2–6 weeks postpartum), and the delayed postpartum phase (lasting up to six months postpartum) (30). However, in some women, the postpartum changes may take longer than six months to resolve.
3. Does breastfeeding cause hormonal imbalance?
One study discovered that decreased breastfeeding could be associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression and anxiety disorders (due to reduced oxytocin response) in women (31). However, further studies are needed to establish an association between breastfeeding and neuroendocrine responses.
The change in the level of postpartum hormones can also result in physical and mental changes in a woman. There can be drastic changes in progesterone and estrogen hormones after childbirth. Higher estrogen levels may affect thyroid and adrenal functions, resulting in hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. These hormones are responsible for mood swings, fatigue, breast milk issues, allergies, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes in the postpartum period. A healthy balanced diet and adequate physical activity can help manage the hormone imbalances in postpartum. You may take supplements and medications according to your doctor’s prescription.
Infographic: Ways To Deal With Postpartum Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalances may not seize even after pregnancy and may continue after childbirth. Although these transformations may bring about several bodily and psychological changes, there are a few things you may do to deal with this phase. Here is an infographic with helpful tips to restore postpartum hormonal balance.
2. Postpartum Hormone Balancing; Canary Club Hormone Testing
3. How Childbirth Affects Hormones: Estrogen Dominance, Postpartum Thyroiditis & Adrenal Health; Hotze Health (2018)
4. Estrogen Dominance and Hypothyroidism: Is it Hypothyroidism or Hormone Imbalance?; The National Academy of Hypothyroidism (2017)
5. Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance?; WIBI
6. Reviewed by Dr. M. James; Symptoms of hormonal imbalance; Women’s Health Network
7. Shah S. Hormonal link to autoimmune allergies.ISRN Allergy. 2012
8. Postpartum Disorders; MHA
9. Causes of Hormone Imbalance; WIBI
10. Fiber Nutrition Facts
11. Fat and Hormonal Effects; PCRM
12. Vitamin D lowers estrogen levels and your risk of breast cancer; Health and Science
13. Acupuncture; The American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation
14. Side Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives: AAFP (2010)
15. Hormonal Contraception; SOGC
16. Magnesium and Hormonal Balance; Nutritional Magnesium Association
17. Alcohol and Hormones; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
18. NIH Study shows caffeine consumption linked to estrogen changes; National Institutes of Health(2012)
19. An update on soy: It’s just so-so; Harvard Health Publishing (2010)
20. The hormone balance requires essential nutrients but are you getting enough?; Health and Science
21. B. Wellness; Liver: Love It or Leave It?; University Of California(2017)
22. Protein & Other Nutrients in an Egg; NC Egg Association
23. Hormone Imbalance & Restoration; National University Of Natural Medicine
24. J.L.Mayo; Black Cohosh and Chasteberry: Herbs Valued by Women for Centuries; Advanced Nutrition Publications
25. The Uterine Tonic – What you need to know about Red Raspberry Leaf; Acupuncture for Fertility, ivf Support & Reproductive Health
26. Haj‐Husein, S. Tukan, F. Alkazaleh; The effect of marjoram (Origanum majorana) tea on the hormonal profile of women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomised controlled pilot study; Wiley Online Library
27. Maca; U.S. National Library Of Medicine
28. Evening Primerose Oil: The Grand Master Of Medicinal Plants?; MEBSR.ORG
29. Depression During & After Pregnancy: You Are Not Alone; American Academy of Pediatrics.
30. Mattea Romano et al., Postpartum period: three distinct but continuous phases; Journal of Prenatal Medicine.
31. Alison M.S. et al., Association Between Maternal Mood and Oxytocin Response to Breastfeeding; Journal of Women’s Health.
32. S. Trifu et al.; The Neuroendocrinological Aspects Of Pregnancy And Postpartum Depression; NCBI
33. Hair Changes in Pregnancy and Postpartum – What’s Going On?; Lamaze international
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Dr. Shashwat Jani(MS)
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