During both my pregnancies, my hormones were wild. Unlike during my monthly cycles where I could predict exactly how Iâd feel each week or even think, âYikes, Iâm being rather crazyâ¦oh wait, itâs the 8thâ¦periodâs coming,â postpartum hormones wreak a different kind of havoc on your body.
Remember, it took your body 9 months to prepare to create that sweet little human youâre now cradling in your arms and itâs going to take a little time for those hormones that your body created to prepare for the birth to settle down and get back to normal.
Donât worry too much though. These changes are very normal and should have you feeling like yourself within just a few weeks. Letâs take a moment to get to know these postpartum hormones and how theyâre affecting you.
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The Biggest Postpartum Hormone Players
While all your hormones are going through their terrible twoâs right now, these two, in particular, are the biggest players of them all:
When youâre pregnant, your progesterone rates skyrocket. It helps your body relax the ligaments and gets your uterus ready for the big day. But once that placenta is out of there, your progesterone drops off sharply and they wonât go back to a normal production until you have your first period postpartum which could be around 6 to 8 weeks after birth if youâre not breastfeeding.
For me, I breastfed both my girls and I encourage you to do the same if you can and absolutely no judgment if you donât. If you breastfeed, please know that your period may not come back for quite some time, and itâs very normal. Check in with your OB/GYN regularly and please remember that you CAN get pregnant during this time, so unless youâre ready to get back to being pregnant, use protection!
So if youâre breastfeeding, why isnât your period coming back just yet? That brings me to my next postpartum hormone playerâ¦
Prolactin is the hormone that helps you with milk production. You wonât really notice this one until after you have the baby and your progesterone falls out. Prolactin is very useful though it can cause changes in mood, zap your energy, and slow your metabolism.
With these two hormones and your dopamine dropping off thanks to them, you will most certainly feel a bit unbalanced, and itâs all very normal. You might be on cloud 9 one minute and in hysteria the next. Totally normal.
Itâs not just those hormones for new moms though. Itâs the combination of those hormones AND trying to figure out how to handle this tiny crying, eating, and pooping machine.
For me, the first two weeks after the birth of my first child were a roller coaster. I felt terrible. I was exhausted and I wasnât sure I was doing anything right at all. Iâd be happy one minute and in tears the next. And then two weeks later, gone! All of it.
This is what they call the baby blues.
What are the Baby Blues?
According to the March of Dimes, baby blues affect 4 out of every 5 moms. Itâs an incredible feeling of sadness during those first few days after having the baby up to 2 weeks later. Now that Iâm well past that stage, I can tell you that what I felt for 2 weeks was the baby blues.
I remember having it with my second one too, though it didnât seem as awful, perhaps because Iâd endured it before. And just like that, flip! It shut off at exactly 2 weeks.
My friend Jen had what she thought was the baby blues, but it turned out to be postpartum depression. Whatâs the difference?
Keep reading and Iâll tell you what to look out for.
If you have baby blues, you will feel sad and cry, youâll be moody and irritable, you may have trouble sleeping and eating, and making decisions seems impossible.
Even if your husband asks you what you want on your pizza, this may be enough to tip you over the edge. Youâll feel overwhelmed about taking care of the baby too.
The key thing that distinguishes it from postpartum depression though is that the baby blues only last a maximum of 2 weeks. If you are 3 or 4 weeks postpartum or more, you should contact your doctor immediately if youâre having these feelings.
What About Postpartum Depression? Do I Have It?
The craziest thing about postpartum depression (PPD) is that it could happen MONTHS after you give birth. You may not have even had the baby blues and then suddenly PPD drags you down like a lion snapping a gazelle off the Serengeti.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that up to 20% of new moms experience postpartum depression.
Itâs like other forms of depression in that you feel depressed most of the time for weeks on end, withdrawing from those you love, losing interest in things you enjoy (even sex!), changes in your eating and sleeping habits, irritability and anger, and feelings of anxiety or panic attacks.
Again, the difference between PPD and the baby blues is that the baby blues happen right after giving birth and disappear within 2 weeks. PPD happens anywhere from 3 weeks to months after you give birth and it wonât go away on its own.
If you think this sounds like what youâre going through, you are not alone, sweetie. Please call your doctor and get help. There are many safe and effective treatments that will help you feel like yourself again.
My friend Jen that I mentioned before was lucky that she got help. She confided in me after the fact. I was living abroad at the time so I only saw her on Facebook. She looked happy enough, but inside she was in turmoil.
Thanks for telling her husband and her doctor how she felt, she was able to get the help she needed. She decided not to have another baby after what sheâd gone through, but my other friend, Marie, went on to have more kids after suffering PPD with her first and was fine for her 2 other postpartum experiences.
Whatâs Going on With My Body Postpartum?
Along with hormonal changes, you might be wondering whatâs going on with your body after giving birth. There are so many changes, and again, theyâre all very normal for the most part, but if something is really uncomfortable or irritating, tell your doctor right away.
- Sore perineum
This is that tender area down there between your vagina and rectum. If you have a vaginal delivery, it is very prone to tearing which is why you may have had an episiotomy. You can relieve the pain from this by putting an ice pack (wrap it in a towel first) on the area, use a donut-shaped cushion, and by doing Kegel exercises. If you still find the pain unbearable, your doctor can recommend pain medications.
- Afterbirth pains
Your uterus really has to stretch out to have a baby. And now that itâs vacant, itâs going to get back down to size. Breastfeeding helps it shrink more quickly, but regardless, itâs going to cause some cramps and aches as it gets back down to size. OTC pain relief works wonders, though check with your doctor for what you can take if youâre breastfeeding.
- C-section pains
If you had a c-section like me (and hey, Iâve had 2 of them), then it may take you some more time to recover. Your abdomen will be sore and youâll be a bit more feeble as you try to get your strength up. Have your partner walk you around the hospital slowly to get back on your feet.
The worst part of this is if something funny happens. Iâm blessed with an entertaining husband who made such a stink (pun intended!) when our first had her first dirty diaper. I was still tethered to the catheter so I couldnât get up. I donât think Iâve ever been so happy to have a catheter! Watching him change that diaper was probably the most hilarious thing Iâd ever seen and I laughed so hard I buzzed the nurse to check I hadnât ripped open. I hadnât, but the pain was so severe I needed her to convince me otherwise.
- Bleeding and discharge
As your body tries to get back to normal, it will leak out lochia, a type of after-birth vaginal discharge. Itâs much like your worst period moments and will be more intense the first few days. It will peter off after a few weeks if youâre lucky, but for some, it may go on for a month or more. You should visit your doctor for all your postpartum checkups and if anything is abnormal, they will be sure to let you know.
DO NOT use tampons though. Only use pads and keep using them until you get the all-clear from your doctor in a few more weeks.
- Engorged breasts
Whether you breastfeed or not, prolactin plays a role in your breasts filling up with milk. Theyâll feel a bit tender and sore but as you get into breastfeeding, that will subside and youâll get used to your new, bulkier boobs. For those of you not breastfeeding, you will feel a bit uncomfortable until your body gets the message not to produce milk.
That swollen feeling you had while pregnant takes time to disappear thanks to all those extra fluids your body is working to get rid of. You can help them along by drinking plenty of water, keeping your feet up, and trying to get some rest. Youâll start to notice things going back to normal slowly but surely.
If you didnât have these during pregnancy, nowâs the time youâll likely be inflicted. Hemorrhoids are very painful and are from your veins in your anus swelling up. Because of shifts in your body and hormones, you may be more prone to them now. Try drinking more water to keep your bowel movements regular, eat healthfully, and try using a cream to get some relief.
Constipation likely goes hand-in-hand with it, and itâs very common because your body is readjusting.
- Night Sweats
This one is all about those hormones. Night sweats will wake you in the dead of night, dripping with sweat. Relax though, this will all even out soon. In the meantime, you can put a towel down on your bed or wear wicking clothing. You may also find switching to lighter blankets and sheets to be relieving.
Your body went through one of the most miraculous things. This is why everyone was always telling you to sleep before the baby got here. Because now that body of yours is TIRED! I remember never feeling so tired in all my life (and I got even more exhausted than that down the road). With the changes in your postpartum hormones and your body trying to readjust, plus the demands of your baby, itâs no wonder youâre tired!
See if hubby or another relative or friend can help you out by watching the baby so you can take a nap. Yes, you can sleep when the baby sleeps, but thatâs usually not enough to catch up and feel like a half-way normal person.
- Stretched out skin
One of my best friends had her daughter just before she graduated from college. She STILL had the stretched out skin on her belly long after. Luckily for me, I didnât, but I also moisturized my belly every day to prevent stretch marks. She said no one had told her that back then, probably because no one she knew was having kids yet.
You may find yourself with stretch marks after birth and in most cases, they will go away. Sometimes though, they donât but you can minimize their appearance. Try not to worry about this now. I know itâs hard because you just want to look like your old self again, but give your body time to get back.
- Hair loss
During my pregnancies, my hair was shiny and gorgeous, like in those commercials for hair products with the models that have that swishy, stunning hair.
And then 4 months after my first, it started falling out. Not all of it mind you, but enough to freak me out. Itâs quite normal to have some of it fall out but it will grow back in if you eat healthfully and watch how you handle your hair when youâre styling it.
How to Get Through That Postpartum Period
So there are lots of things coming into play here, but try not to worry. In most cases, things will get back to normal in a few more weeks, and youâll feel less wacky. Your body will start to heal and work its way back down to size, but not without your help. Itâs really rare for a woman to give birth and be able to put her skinny jeans back on immediately after.
For the rest of us, it takes time and devotion to get that body back. Try to be patient and take care of your health by eating right and getting exercise. You shouldnât start any vigorous workouts or sports until after your postpartum checkup when your doctor checks everything out.
For those of you that deliver vaginally, thatâs going to be about 3 or 4 weeks, but for those of you that had c-sections like me, itâs going to be more like 6 weeks.
In most cases, a nice walk outside is just enough movement that it wonât compromise your healing process so with that and healthy eating, youâll get the scale moving in your favor. I addressed this portion first because, for me, I was really disappointed that I wasnât suddenly skinny.
Itâs very hard to get over when your hormones are making you nuts too. This is why you should do the following things to help you adjust while your hormones get back to the right levels.
Itâs amazing how much better youâll feel when you actually get some sleep. Switch off in the nights with your spouse or have the grandparents come and care for the baby while you take a nap. Believe me, you will feel so much better about everything!
Connect with other moms
If you donât have any other friends that are moms, you can look for mom groups to join in your area. I know, I know, some of them might be full of Catty Cathyâs but there will always be a mom like me looking for a friend too.
Yes, you must take care of that baby, but it took 2 of you to create him. Have your husband take care of the baby while you get a mani/pedi or a facial, or even while you meet friends for lunch. When you feel satisfied in your soul, youâre a much better person to everyone in your life.
Get out there
Unless itâs -50 outside, you should get baby dressed up and in the stroller for a walk. Or wear him in the carrier. That change of scenery is good for both of you. Your baby will likely sleep the whole time but if not, the sights of the trees, the sounds of the birds chirping, and the smell of fresh air will certainly have him captivated.
Youâll feel so much better when you move around and swap out the scenery of your living room for something else.
Get the help you need
There is nothing, I repeat nothing, wrong with getting the help you need. Whether you find yourself spread too thin and just want someone to take the baby out of your arms for an hour or two or you feel like your hormones really arenât settling as they should. We all need help from time to time and itâs important you do what you need to. No one will think badly of you if you seek the assistance you need.
If you feel like what you have isnât the baby blues and it matches the symptoms of PPD, please get help today. Youâll feel so much better and like yourself again when you do. Itâs nothing to be ashamed of.
Donât forget that weâre all in the sisterhood of motherhood together. You will be a great mom, and you will know what to do. And even if you think you canât handle it and your kids feel like theyâre breaking you or something else is tearing you apart, you can always take comfort in knowing that when most moms see these moments, their hearts are with you too.
I recently found this story about moms that came to the rescue of another mom who literally couldnât even anymore at the airport. It brought me to tears because itâs such a beautiful way for us to remember what weâre really about at the core of it all.
I guarantee that youâll find more kindness like this at your most vulnerable moments. I know I did, and I try to pay that back every time I see a new mom on the brink of insanity clinging on for dear life. Hang in thereâ¦it gets better, it really does!