Welcoming a baby into the world is a joyous moment for the mother and family alike. However, it is a common misconception that after giving birth, all women are in a state of bliss as they ease into motherhood and caring for their child.
Because giving birth is such a transformative experience, it can also take a mental and physical toll on mothers while their body attempts to restore its sense of normalcy. In fact, after pregnancy, the body’s hormones fluctuate greatly leaving many women battling moodiness and emotional ups and downs.
What Happens to the Body’s Hormones Postpartum?
Immediately After Giving Birth
As soon as the baby and placenta are delivered, the body’s progesterone and estrogen decrease. To compensate for this initial drop, the body’s levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” spike. This is one of the many reasons mothers tend to immediately bond with their child and feel protective as this hormone is released for relationship building. It is also important to note that this spike in oxytocin can lead to the “baby blues” a few days postpartum as this hormone leaves the mother’s system.
As the mother’s body is primarily concerned with supporting the newborn child after birth, the body also releases prolactin which stimulates breast milk production.
3-6 Weeks Postpartum
This time frame is typically a rollercoaster of emotions for mothers as their body attempts to regulate and normalize hormones while not getting enough sleep. This leads to a spike in adrenaline to keep mothers going despite sleep loss.
It is important to note that around six weeks is typically when signs of postpartum depression may set in. This is because the positive postpartum hormones have continued to fade for weeks, making their levels quite low.
Warning signs of postpartum depression include:
- Repetitive thoughts
- Loss of appetite
- Panic attacks
- Inability or lack of desire to perform common tasks such as shower, eat, or leave the house
3 Months Postpartum
This is typically when hormone levels begin the process of resetting to pre-pregnancy levels. However, due to the stress of caring for a newborn, mothers are still dealing with irregular hormone levels. More specifically, cortisol levels are increased due to stress and melatonin levels are low due to a lack of sleep.
6 Months Postpartum
As the mother slowly begins weaning and introducing solid foods into the baby’s diet, levels of prolactin, the milk-making hormone, begins to decline. Even if the mother continues to breastfeed beyond the six-month mark, prolactin will remain fairly regulated by the body as there is no need for excess milk production.
Restoring Hormonal Balance
Although there will always be some degree of mood swings and powerful emotions mothers experience after giving birth, there are ways to help the body restore a sense of balance:
Mothers with newborns often put their needs last and eat whatever is easy and available. However, focusing on eating healthy postpartum is one of the best ways to balance hormone levels. As childbirth can leave the body incredibly nutrient deficient, it is important to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. It is also vital to make sure you are getting enough fat as it is essential for proper hormonal function.
Additionally, remember to stay hydrated, especially for those who are breastfeeding.
It can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need through diet alone, especially for a mom busy with a newborn, making supplements a great option.
Experts recommend that mothers stay on their prenatal vitamins after giving birth for a couple of months, regardless if they are breastfeeding.
Learn about essential prenatal vitamins here
It is also recommended to add magnesium to your supplement routine postpartum can help with digestion, relaxation, and sleep.
Vitamin D and probiotics are also beneficial in restoring postpartum health.
*Always consult your doctor before beginning supplementation
The last thing a mom with a newborn wants to hear is that she should try to get more sleep. However, sleep is one of the most important factors in hormone health. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on our hormones, and can also affect the immune system, lower our resistance to infection, impair our thyroid function, negatively affect the ability to lose weight, and make us more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Prioritizing sleep, even if it is just a quick nap when you can help your body restore its hormone levels.
The experience of childbirth and postpartum life is incredibly overwhelming but taking steps to restore your hormone levels is one of the best ways to help feel like your old self again.
If you are struggling from a hormonal imbalance and feel you are not getting the help you need, contact Holtorf Medical Group today.