It's Not You, It's Them: Managing Hormone Levels
You’ve made it to the eight-week mark, now starting week nine post-delivery. Society may tell us that you should be fully recovered from childbirth at this point, but society doesn’t know everything. You may still feel exhausted, moody, frustrated or anything else within a wide range of physical and mental symptoms. It’s important to remember that it takes time for your hormone levels to go back to normal, and hormones can play a major role in how you feel every day.
Estrogen and Progesterone – The Big Two
Right before delivery, your body has the highest levels of estrogen and progesterone it has ever known. After your baby’s born, these levels drop to the lowest they’ll ever be, at least until menopause. This dramatic change is not without side effects. These are the two hormones that, when lacking, can give you the “baby blues,” like mood swings, sadness, anxiety and irritability, or even full-blown postpartum depression, which can severely impact your daily life. The lower levels of progesterone may also lead to acid reflux and constipation, just to add to the fun.
At the same time, another hormone called oxytocin is released like crazy. Known as the “bonding hormone,” oxytocin triggers the mothering instinct, part of which is being on the lookout for any danger around your baby. Couple that with the drop in progesterone, a hormone that typically reduces anxiety, and you’re going to feel nervous, worried and irritated—possibly ALL THE TIME.
Your thyroid may not be working quite right just yet, either. It’s common for new mothers to have inflammation of the thyroid gland, and this can lead to insomnia, fatigue, irritability and even more anxiety.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Just because all this misery is “normal” after giving birth doesn’t mean that you should suck it up and go about your business. You have to take care of yourself if you’re going to be able to care for your baby, and this means getting plenty of rest, asking for help when you need it and staying in contact with your doctor. It could be that other factors might be contributing to your symptoms, such as anemia or vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so being honest with your health care providers is very important to getting you on the road to recovery.