For many women, pregnancy is a wild ride. While each woman’s experience is unique, most will agree that it’s no walk in the park (hello first and third trimesters!). But for all of the hormonal ups and downs of pregnancy, the postpartum period is where things can get really tough.
The reason for this is the drastic hormonal changes experienced in the first 5 days after birth and weeks after. They are some of the biggest hormonal fluctuations in the human experience with estrogen and progesterone levels falling dramatically once your baby is earth-side.
But how do you know when things just aren’t right in your postpartum period, despite these hormonal ups and downs? Here are the signs of hormonal imbalance after pregnancy.
Hormonal Fluctuations Post-Birth
Aside from the fact that you just gave birth and have a tiny human to raise and nurture, there are a myriad of reasons you might not feel like the old you. Yes, your life has done a 180 and changed overnight. But your hormones play a key role in how you feel in the months after you give birth.
The fourth trimester counts as the first 12 weeks following the birth of your child. In that time, your hormones will change many times to accommodate your healing body, your breastfeeding journey, and so much more.
Just before birth and immediately after, your progesterone and estrogen levels drop from the highest they’ve ever been, down to the lowest. This can lead to what’s known as the ”baby blues”, as well as anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and more.
Your system is also flooded with oxytocin, kicking in your instinct to bond with your child, as well as other key hormones such as prolactin to aid in breastfeeding. It’s 100 percent normal to feel unlike yourself with all of these huge hormonal changes, along with many sleepless nights and the reality of sleep deprivation.
Key Signs of Hormonal Imbalance After Pregnancy
It will take several months for your hormones to level out to pre-pregnancy status. This amount of time varies for every person. But here’s when you know you might be dealing with a hormonal imbalance (a good few months down the line):
1. Major Mood Swings
It’s normal for your mood to fluctuate in the postpartum period due to lack of sleep, overwhelm, and the massive responsibility of raising a child. Emotional ups and downs are par for the course of parenthood.
But if you’re consistently experiencing mood swings that are out of character for you, specifically towards the end of the first year of your postpartum period, this is cause for concern. These drastic mood swings could point to a hormonal irregularity that’s worth investigating. Things could escalate to more severe conditions such as postpartum depression if left untreated.
2. Chronic Fatigue
What parent is not tired, especially in the first year after birth? For most, being tired seems to become part of your everyday life (especially in the early days!). But beyond this level of general fatigue is chronic fatigue — a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion that dominates your life.
Ongoing exhaustion can have a dire impact on your life, affecting your mood, relationships, and even your ability to care for yourself and your baby. This type of fatigue could point to a hormonal imbalance that you might need to look into.
3. Low or Non-Existent Sex Drive
The hormones involved in breastfeeding can contribute to a suppressed libido, specifically prolactin which suppresses both progesterone and estrogen. The mental and physical toll of breastfeeding can also contribute to a lower libido.
But once your hormones begin to level out, usually around the 6-month mark when your baby might begin solids, very low libido could signal that something is up.
4. An Irregular Menstrual Cycle
It might be difficult to decipher what’s normal and what’s not with your menstruation once you’ve given birth. For many women, it can take months for their menstrual cycle to return to ”normal” or something resembling a normal cycle. This is especially true for breastfeeding mothers. If you exclusively breastfeed, you might not experience a menstrual cycle for up to a year or more post-birth.
But if your menstrual cycle does return, and it’s all over the place (i.e. resembling nothing like it once was), this could be a sign of hormonal imbalance. It’s worth tracking your cycle and symptoms for a few months to get a good read on what’s happening. But if you have concerns, it’s always worth consulting a women’s health professional.
5. Unusual Weight Gain or Loss
It’s 100 percent normal for your body to retain some weight after birth. Factors such as exhaustion, stress, and overwhelm can also make it difficult to shift the weight you might have gained during pregnancy. For other women, these factors can lead to rapid weight loss and maternal depletion. The door swings both ways.
But if you’re experiencing rapid weight gain or loss, even if your diet has not changed much, this could point to an imbalance in the hormones produced by your thyroid.
6. Mental Health Changes
Postpartum anxiety, depression, and psychosis are all common realities for many women in the months following birth. The key is to identify the symptoms early on and get the help that you need. Some key symptoms include huge mood fluctuations, heightened or irrational anxiety, a lack of interest in caring for yourself or your child, and more.
More often than not, these mental health changes come down to hormonal imbalances. If left untreated, these conditions can become severe and impact your health, your relationships, and even the safety of your child.
That’s why it’s so important to understand the symptoms and seek out expert treatment as soon as possible.
Women’s Health Experts at Your Fingertips
The signs of hormonal imbalance after pregnancy can be difficult to notice, especially because everything feels so different after you’ve given birth. This makes it tough to understand what’s considered ”normal” or when a hormonal imbalance could be at play.
The bottom line is that you know yourself best. If you’re not feeling right, take the time to consult with a women’s health expert who can help you get to the bottom of your hormonal issues. Get in touch with Women’s Health of Augusta today.