We’ve spoken to lots of mums who have told us a similar story: since becoming mothers they don’t feel like their hormones have ever eased back into balance.
Too many of us are struggling hormonally, nutritionally, and emotionally to get back on our feet as mothers, and this can last for years after the birth.
Feeling as though you’ve lost a part of ‘you’ can be hugely confusing and upsetting but we’re here to tell you that it’s ok. When you actually break down what takes place within the body during pregnancy, childbirth and the early years of parenthood it’s easy to see where these hormone imbalances come from and why, without attention, they stick around so persistently.
What Happens During & After Pregnancy?
Unsurprisingly, the process of creating life and growing a tiny human causes our hormone levels to change significantly.
Firstly, when conception occurs progesterone rises to keep the uterus lining intact, thicken it for the embryo and to establish the placenta. Towards the end of the first trimester the placenta takes over the primary progesterone production, and drives it for the remainder of your pregnancy.
Oestrogen levels also rise during pregnancy. Oestrogen plays many roles in a healthy pregnancy; including helping the uterus grow, developing your milk-making breast mechanics, triggering the development of your baby’s organs and regulating its bone density.
After the birth, once the placenta has been delivered, progesterone and oestrogen levels drop back dramatically.
Generally speaking, our hormones should naturally find a healthy balance after pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, if a few key wellness factors are out of alignment it can take a lot longer than ‘normal’ to rebalance.
During pregnancy a mother gives all the nutrients that the baby needs to grow. However, through this process, and due to high rates of nutrient-deficiencies in our modern lives, once the healthy baby is born the mother is often left depleted. This is called postnatal depletion.
Postnatal depletion is not exclusive to new mothers either. Dr Oscar Serrallach, the Australian doctor who coined this term, has observed that mothers can experience signs of postnatal depletion for up to 10 years after giving birth.
In Australia, the peak prevalence of postnatal depression (and postnatal depletion) is actually four years after the baby was born.
Postnatal depletion impacts hormone balance as our sex hormone production is highly dependant on having adequate levels of key nutrients.
During pregnancy our stores of the following nutrients all get stretched:
- Omega 3 fatty acids like DHA
- Specific amino acids
These are also essential hormone building nutrients that most of us aren’t replacing in our bodies at the rate we’re losing them, and without these nutrients it’s unlikely we’ll be able to produce balanced levels of our sex hormones. It's no wonder that women feel so ‘off’ for so long.
Pregnant mums get lots of amazing prenatal support; from midwives to doctors and antenatal classes, there is a lot of guidance available for parents. However, once the baby is born, the whole focus goes to the baby, leaving little focus on the mother and her needs at an often challenging time in her life.
Any mum will know the stress associated with trying to be present and available for your children while nurturing your relationship, feeding people, washing, cleaning, ironing, trying to maintain a social life, growing in a career or business, and the myriad of other responsibilities that quickly pile up.
The stuff that our sex hormones are made from is the same stuff that our stress hormones are made from. Therefore, if there’s too much stress in our lives (physical, emotional or situational) our brain sends signals saying that we need to prioritise making stress hormones. As a result our sex hormone production can fall by the wayside.
The final piece of the puzzle is sleep. Every parent knows that having a baby equals poor sleep, and for many mums the sleep issues can continue for years. Studies have actually shown that new parents face up to 6 years of poor sleep.
Sleep is one of the foundations of health and wellbeing. It’s as essential as water; in some ways maybe more so.
When we are deprived of sleep, it puts our bodies into a state of stress. As explained above, when we’re stressed our brains prioritise making stress hormones over sex hormones, which over time can lead to imbalances within our key sex hormones.
The Full Picture
So, layer a lack of sleep on top of a stressful, busy life; then add nutrient deficiencies and depletion into the mix… It paints a picture the explains where these hormone imbalances are coming from for mothers.
If this is ringing bells for you, please know that it's ok. You’re not alone, and there’s plenty you can do to help yourself!
Up the self care to reduce stress, and introduce a mindfulness exercise. Eat a nutrient dense, wholefood diet and supplement with a really good multi and fish oil to replenish all the nutrients that its harder to get in high quantities from our diets alone. Look at your sleep hygiene and have a freshen up. Make sure you’re prioritising YOU.
Looking for more information? Head over to our FAQs page where you can find out about Eve, what the Eve Hormone Balance Test measures, when the best time to test your hormones is, and more.