By Chelsea Skaggs, Postpartum Coach
Motherhood introduces a multitude of transformations, both emotionally and physically. One of the significant shifts you’ll experience post-birth involves hormonal changes that may feel overwhelming. To help you navigate this natural, yet complex journey, there are a few things to understand and tools to help you navigate these changes.
And before we go any further, can we set the record straight? It seems like many people use the word “hormonal” almost like an insult that can be dismissive. Oh she’s hormonal. While hormonal changes may cause us to feel out of sorts, experience elevated emotional changes, and have things we cannot control happening in our bodies, that doesn’t mean your experience should be dismissed. There’s a reason you’re hormonal, and it’s a natural process of life.
The Science Behind Postpartum Hormonal Changes
During pregnancy, your body is designed to create a nurturing environment for your baby, and your hormones play a pivotal role in this process. Estrogen and progesterone, two key hormones, rise exponentially to support the growth of the placenta and the fetus, prepare the uterus for childbirth, and stimulate the mammary glands in preparation for breastfeeding. This is good! We need this!
But once the placenta is delivered—often referred to as the ‘third stage’ of labor—these hormones see a drastic reduction. This sudden drop is your body’s way of transitioning from a state of pregnancy to the postpartum phase. Essentially, your body is reverting to its non-pregnant state, which, in turn, can lead to the various physical and emotional symptoms that many new mothers experience. This hormonal rollercoaster is a normal part of postpartum recovery. It’s important to be kind to yourself during this period, acknowledging that it’s okay to feel the way you do and seek support when needed.
Common Symptoms of Hormonal Changes
There are several symptoms that may signal hormonal changes. They include:
- Mood swings and postpartum depression
- Hair loss or thinning
- Changes in skin and acne
- Night sweats
- Decreased libido
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, rest assured that you’re not alone, and there will come a day when these things feel more “normal” again. In the meantime, consider what you need for comfort. If your hair loss is stressful to you, you may consider a shampoo and conditioner designed with biotin. You may also consider a skincare regime to help control changes to skin and acne. If you are dealing with night sweats, make it easier on yourself with cooling bedsheets.
Tools to Navigate Postpartum Hormonal Changes
Managing postpartum hormonal changes doesn’t have to be a solo journey. In fact, there are various resources at your disposal. Here are some tools that can help:
- Regular Exercise: Regular exercise can help balance hormones, reduce anxiety, and boost your mood. You can search locally for a postnatal exercise class or try a digital option like FIT4MOM digital classes or Strong Body Strong Mama Fourth Trimester Restore or 1-on-1 training. I worked with Julie (Strong Body Strong Mama) and it was a great experience! Read more from her here.
- Balanced Diet: Maintaining a balanced diet can help your body adjust to hormonal changes. Check out this blog post on meal planning to help you plan, prep, and enjoy.
- Adequate Sleep: It might seem like a distant dream for new mothers, but quality sleep plays a crucial role in hormonal balance. If you have a hard time taking advantage of sleep windows, consider using a white noise machine in your room. Also, a nice sleep meditation can help you calm your body. My favorite free app for meditations is Insight Timer. Read more about sleep and sleep deprivation as a new mom here.
- Professional Support: Counseling or therapy can be beneficial for navigating emotional changes. This is a good choice especially if you believe you may be facing postpartum depression or another postpartum mental health challenge. This is also a good tool if your transition into motherhood is bringing up challenging parts of your past that you need support to process.
- Support Groups: You’re not alone in this journey. Joining support groups such as Postpartum Support International can provide reassurance and practical advice. If you are looking for a more personal experience, Postpartum Together Small Group Coaching provides a space for intimate, small group coaching with objectives and resources to help you find and be your best self in this new season.
- Mindfulness Practices: Techniques like meditation can help manage stress and foster emotional balance. Apps like Headspace or Insight Timer offer guided mindfulness exercises.
A Note on Postpartum Depression
If you feel persistent sadness, extreme mood swings, or have trouble bonding with your baby, you might be experiencing postpartum depression. This condition affects 1 in 8 new mothers, according to the American Psychological Association. If you’re feeling this way, reach out to a healthcare professional immediately. You are not alone, and there are many effective treatments available to help you through this challenging time. (Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? read more here.)
Navigating postpartum hormonal changes can be challenging, but with the right support and tools, it becomes manageable. Remember, motherhood is not a path meant to be walked alone. Reach out, connect with others, and always prioritize your health. After all, taking care of yourself is a crucial part of taking care of your baby. You’ve got this.