Though a natural process, hormone imbalance after pregnancy can leave a profound impact on your health. Learn here its effects and measures to get a relief.
While the hormone levels surge during your pregnancy, they fall sharply after the child birth. However, the symptoms you experience could not only be due to the falling hormone levels.
The way your body responds to the dipping hormone levels also determines the type and severity of the symptoms. Importantly, this is the reason why not all the women experience the same symptoms after pregnancy.
Why Hormone Imbalance is common after pregnancy
As a matter of fact, during your pregnancy, a majority of the hormones is produced by the placenta. Once you give birth to the baby, the placenta is expelled. For this reason, hormonal imbalance after pregnancy is very common.
Hormone Imbalance after pregnancy: What Symptoms Might Occur?
You may relate the symptoms of hormone imbalance after pregnancy to the fall in the levels of specific hormones.
Estrogen after pregnancy
Once you give birth to your baby, the estrogen levels fall abruptly. In fact, it reaches its normal levels. But your body finds it difficult to cope with such abrupt decline in hormone levels. As a result, you may experience one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Low sex drive. Luckily, the drop in sex drive is temporary and tends to normalize when your body adjusts to the newly acquired hormone levels.
- Thinning hair. Do you remember you used to have thick and shiny hair when you were pregnant? But now your hair falls even without a reason. There is a valid reason behind this. High estrogen levels during pregnancy keep the hair from falling. But once the estrogen levels dip, your hair starts falling. Hair fall is most likely to be heaviest during the first five months after pregnancy. The good news is, this is temporary and should be resolved within a year after the child birth.
- Dryness in the vagina. Estrogen is key to maintaining a normal vaginal lubrication. Dry vagina results as the estrogen levels fall. During this period, sex may be uncomfortable or even painful. Consider using an artificial lubricant if you are in a mood to enjoy a pleasurable sex.
- Hot flashes.
Progesterone after pregnancy
Usually, the progesterone levels fall after delivery and reach the normal range only when you start menstruating.
When it comes to the effects of hormone imbalance after pregnancy, progesterone may not cause as many problems as the declining estrogen levels. In fact, only a few studies have attempted to explore the health effects of lowered progesterone after the childbirth.
However, some studies suggest low levels of estrogen along with progesterone may play a crucial role in the development of depression.
Depression after childbirth is a severe condition. Unlike “baby blues”, it is a long lasting condition and you should get medical help to treat it. It may occur due to the combined effect of falling hormone levels and emotional issues. The risk is higher among the women who have a personal or family history of depression and bipolar disorder.
The symptoms usually begin to surface within six months after delivery. Seek a professional help right away if you experience:
- Low moods on most days of the week often accompanied by severe mood swings.
- Crying for no reason.
- Having problems with building a bond with your baby.
- Social withdrawal and lack of communication with your loved ones.
- Getting hungry abnormally or loss of appetite.
- Problems falling asleep or sleeping for long hours.
- Feeling excessively tired.
- Loss of ability to enjoy the activities that were enjoyable previously.
- Irritability and bursts of anger.
- Feeling guilty over not being a good mother.
- Problems with concentration, decision-making, and racing thoughts.
- Feeling anxious often with panic attacks.
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Hormone Imbalance After Pregnancy: Know How These Hormones Change
Relaxin. This hormone facilitates delivery by making your muscles more flexible and bigger. In fact, relaxin persists in your body up to five months after the delivery. Thus, it is actually working on your muscles even after you have come a long way after the delivery. Consequently, you may become more prone to having sprains and strains.
Prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates breast milk production. Thus, it is going to stay inside your body as long as you are breastfeeding your child. This hormone also has a role in controlling your hunger. In fact, having higher levels of prolactin increases your hunger.
Thyroid Hormones. Though not common, thyroid problems may occur in some women after pregnancy. Most commonly within the first year after childbirth. Swelling of the thyroid glands can result in either an overactive or underactive thyroid function, or even both alternately. Usually, the problems last for two to four months. An overactive thyroid causes anxiety, irritability, weakness, unintended weight loss, and sleeplessness. On the other hand, an underactive thyroid causes constipation, skin dryness, and problems with focus. If the symptoms are severe, you may need thyroid hormone therapy.
Oxytocin. In most women, the oxytocin level rises from first to the third trimester of pregnancy. Then, it starts to dip and becomes stable within the first two months after childbirth. Also called love hormone, oxytocin has two functions in women. During the late phase of labor, it increases uterine muscle contractions and thus facilitates labor. After pregnancy, it helps to release breast milk from the nipples.
How to Balance Hormones After Pregnancy?
For severe symptoms, you may need to visit a doctor. Most notably, you should seek an immediate medical attention if you have the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Even so, a few lifestyle and dietary changes can go a long way in helping to restore the hormone balance.
You may want to use the following tips.
- Take iron-rich foods. Iron has more roles to do than just preventing anemia. According to a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, taking an iron supplement for six weeks can significantly improve the symptoms of postpartum depression. In fact, the improvement rate in the study was more than 40%. Considering this, you may want to take the supplement after consulting your doctor. However, you can increase your iron intake by eating more iron-rich foods. For example, dark green leafy vegetable like spinach, collard greens and kale, dried fruits, beans, egg yolk and organ meat. Moreover, you can get enough iron from fortified cereals and grains.
- Any form of physical activity is good for your health. After pregnancy, you may restart your fitness routine with some simple and low-impact exercises. Experts do not recommend high-intensity exercise right after childbirth. But this does not mean you should not exercise at all. If you had a normal delivery, you can begin your fitness routine after a few days. However, those who had a C-section should first consult their doctor. Kegel exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor muscles is a good way to start with. Sweating for a few minutes every day is good for your body as well mind. It helps to keep your stress under control and makes you feel better.
- Say “yes” to Omega-3-fatty acids. These healthy fats are good for your hormone balance as well as your baby’s brain development. There is a well-known link between these healthy fats and lower levels of inflammation. Various studies also suggest Omega-3-fatty acids may help to prevent postpartum depression and breast cancer. Get your dose by taking walnut, edible seeds, flaxseed oil, fish, and fish oils. If you think you need a supplement, talk to your doctor first.
- Make sure to take enough B vitamins. B vitamins, most notably, thiamin, riboflavin, B-6, and B-12 are called “priority” nutrients during lactation. It is because these vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining the overall health and development of your baby. Not to mention, your body needs them in sufficient quantities too.
- If you are breastfeeding, take an additional 500 Calories per day. This will keep you from getting tired easily. Remember not to make up for the calorie demand by taking unhealthy foods like snacks, chips or sodas.
- Say “no” to alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is known to cause hormone imbalance. Not to forget how it impacts your heart, brain and every other major organ in the body. Similarly, caffeine worsens your sleep problems and increases irritability.
- Prevost, Marie., et al. “Oxytocin in Pregnancy and the Postpartum: Relations to Labor and Its Management” Frontiers in Public Health 2014; 2: 1.
- Sheikh, M., et al. “The efficacy of early iron supplementation on postpartum depression, a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.” European Journal of Nutrition 2017 Mar;56(2):901-908.
- Mori, TA., et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation.” Current Atherosclerosis Reports 2004 Nov;6(6):461-7.
- Saldeen, P., et al. “Women and omega-3 Fatty acids.” Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 2004 Oct;59(10):722-30; quiz 745-6.
- Allen, Lindsay H. “Multiple micronutrients in pregnancy and lactation: an overview” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition May 2005 ; 81(5):1206S-1212S