While pregnant you nested, went to all of your doctors appointments, read all the books and blogs, and received daily updates from your apps. You fought through 9 (ok, 10) months of symptoms, then put your body through the marathon of labor and delivery. Now you’re kind of on your own with this brand new family member. The first three months after birth, sometimes referred to as “the fourth trimester”, is an incredibly vulnerable time in a woman’s life. Here is a little insight into the physical and hormonal changes that occur during this time.
Immediately after birth the hormone oxytocin rushes through the body to promote feelings of bonding towards your infant. Along with the feelings of “you are my everything” oxytocin also activates momma bear mode, encouraging protective feelings that can lead to uneasiness and anxiety.
The biggest hormonal shift that occurs postpartum is estrogen dominance. During pregnancy, the placenta produces progesterone at levels much higher than it usually does during a typical cycle. Of course when the baby is delivered so is the placenta, resulting in an immediate progesterone free fall. While this is happening, estrogen levels remain high leading to symptoms such as severe menstrual cramps, irregular and heavy periods, premenstrual fluid retention and weight gain or mood-related symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, feeling low or depression. These opposing forces are a major contributing factor to the emotional backlash referred to as “baby blues” and can catalyze postpartum depression.
Estrogen dominance causes the liver to produce increasing levels of thyroid-binding globulin. As the name states, it binds to thyroid hormone. Once thyroid hormone is bound in the blood, it is no longer free to enter the cells to be used as its intended function which leads to impaired thyroid function postpartum. Symptoms include brain fog, hair loss, fatigue, headaches, and constipation.
Supporting a brand-new person and integrating your child into the life you’ve created is a monumental challenge. Add this on top of the physical and emotional toll and you might have a recipe for feeling really overwhelmed and lost. It’s important at this time (and really any time) to try to keep tabs on your feelings and thoughts, communicate them to your support system and medical team, and don’t be afraid to ask for help to lighten your load.
Katie Fitzgerald, MS Clinical Nutrition, is the Co-Founder of HelloEden– a supplement designed to nourish reproductive health and hormone balance every day. A native New Yorker, Katie, lives in the West Village with her husband, Charles, and miracle twin boys.