Postpartum Hormonal Changes

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I decided to take on this topic today for several reasons.  One reason is that I am currently working with many women who are in the postpartum period, and I’m sure there are many more out there that will read this post – both now and in the future.  Another reason is that changes in hormones are often brushed aside like some kind of “excuse” in the minds of your typical average Joe.  But the postpartum period is a powerful reminder that the hormones are in charge of us, not the other way around.  We need more than a good “pep talk” to overcome the power of hormonal influences upon our bodies and brains.  Lastly, one postpartum mom I have been speaking with has lost 35 pounds in 12 weeks eating as much as she wants of whatever she wants with no exercise.  This too is an interesting biology lesson for everyone, and another blow to the theory that calorie intake and exercise levels are the prime determinants of a person’s level of body fat, or the idea that we don’t possess mechanisms to lose body fat without exercise or dietary restriction.

Important lessons from the postpartum period…

Prolactin levels rise to much higher levels than normal during and after pregnancy.  Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.  Generally-speaking, the more activity going on in the pituitary, the higher the level of stress. Interestingly, in a non-lactating female, high prolactin levels are seen with hypothyroidism.  It’s possible for both males and females to start producing milk when prolactin levels are high.  Prolactin, as in “pro-lactation” is the primary hormone responsible for milk production in the postpartum period.

What’s interesting though is that prolactin is actually higher during pregnancy than during the postpartum period.  Part of the reason that the effects of prolactin don’t set in until after delivery is that progesterone is also really high during pregnancy (as in pro-gestation hormone).  Progesterone counteracts the effects of prolactin.  Progesterone drops after the kid is born, and then the effects of prolactin become much more apparent.

Postpartum Lesson #1 – Hormones are not isolated substances.  They have complex interactions and interrelationships with one another.  Looking at any one hormone level in isolation tells you next to nothing without seeing the picture of how all of the hormones are interacting.

What are the effects of prolactin?  Its most notable biological effects are to obliterate the urge to have sex (males with high prolactin actually experience impotence typically), oppose and interfere with dopamine (the primary chemical of feeling happy and outgoing – often mistakenly thought to be serotonin), and disrupt the menstrual cycle.

Postpartum Lesson #2 – Prolactin is elevated postpartum.  Prolactin lowers sex drive and worsens mood and energy levels in addition to being generally anti-metabolic.  It also triggers lactation and is a necessary evil in a sense, which leads us to lesson 3.

Postpartum Lesson #3 – During the postpartum period, women are NOT at their physiological peak, but are in a suboptimal, compromised state of physical and psychological well-being.

It’s also well-known that if women are nursing frequently throughout the day and night as is historically normal for human breastfeeding (prior to the industrial revolution), that menstruation is blunted – often for well over a year if breastfeeding is continued.  Breastfeeding is a natural form of birth control, preventing pregnancies from being spaced too close together.  It’s been stated actually that it is biologically normal for women to only have a dozen or two periods in their lifetime (the tradeoff being merely 8 or so pregnancies and 16 years of breastfeeding).  Get ready for the launch of my new Ancestral baby-making mimicry program entitled Paleo Pussy: Ain’t Got Time to Bleed with a foreward by Jesse Ventura.  Ahem, excuse me.

What gets me is that everyone easily grasps the idea that a hormone like prolactin could stop a woman from menstruating, or trigger her to lactate.  That seems simple and straightforward and there’s no conscious involvement with the regulation of such things.  Yet, if you are “not in the mood,” depressed, or have a lot of extra body fat stored up then saying it has something to do with hormones is “just an excuse.”  Keep that chin up and do more chin-ups!  And then, when you start to get fit and sexy you just won’t be able to stay away from the bedroom!  Whatever.  As a male, just think of the strength of your desire for sex immediately after sex.  Not so high is it?  How are your energy levels?  Feel like a workout?  Guess what hormone peaks right after sex in males?  Prolactin maybe?  You betcha!  Of course females have much higher levels of prolactin during the postpartum period, and it’s constant.

Postpartum Lesson #4 – When your body is in a compromised state, that doesn’t mean you should try harder to lose weight via self-starvation and exercise.  Most people shouldn’t do that anyway, but you especially shouldn’t do it in the postpartum state.

What’s interesting is that there is a strong biological drive to return to your normal weight, and despite this highly compromised state, low energy levels, slightly suppressed metabolism… you still typically see weight loss during the postpartum period.  Interestingly, one person I have been speaking with over the last year gave birth 12 weeks ago and has since lost 35 pounds.  That in and of itself is fascinating, as that is an incredibly high rate of weight loss, and even after all that weight loss she is still breaking out in sweats anytime the thermostat is set higher than 67 degrees F.

More interesting still is the fact that her weight loss stalled out on her a couple times, where she stopped losing weight for a week or so.  Those incidences came when she cut back her food intake and tried to exercise.  As soon as she just went back to lazing around the house, spending the entire day in and out of sleep, and plowing through exactly the amount of food that she desired to eat, the weight loss resumed.

Postpartum Lesson #5 – Our bodies do have a mechanism that triggers spontaneous weight loss, with or without performing physical activity, and without consciously restricting food intake.  Skipping meals, starving yourself, cutting out certain macronutrients, trying to will yourself to go jogging instead of taking a nap – these stresses can actually shut this natural process down, or at the very least awaken a strong drive to store fat in the future.

Many women won’t lose an ounce while nursing, and I try to encourage women to take it easy on themselves during this period.  When progesterone picks up and prolactin falls once a woman stops nursing, you often see the same type of weight loss I just described – fast, automatic, completely free of effort.  No need to try to squeeze in workouts between milkings or do a juice fast.

Anyway, just wanted to share some insights and experiences that tell a fascinating tale about how our bodies work, and the distinct differences in who we are and how we function in one phase of life vs. another.  Plus, I love talking about milky boobies because I’ve never had it straight from the source.  A disturbance in the universe will continue to exist until I do.

Links…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prolactin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactational_amenorrhea

http://www.sharedjourney.com/define/prolactin.html

75 Comments

  1. first?

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  2. I am 11 months postpartum with child three and would like to loose 35 pounds! lol

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    • Have you tried juice fasting? Hee hee

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      • That’s actually one thing I haven’t tried! Thought about it, but thankfully never tried it. I’m more of a bacon-fast person. lol

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  3. Hi Matt,
    Speaking of milky, white substances: Not masturbating for a while seems to have a theraputic effect on men with low libido, depression and anxiety. Personally, I quit jerkin’ the gerkin and for the first 2 to 3 weeks, I experienced a dramatic increase in libido as well as alleviation of depression and anxiety. Could it be that this allows prolactin to come down to a normal range, thus improving mood and libido?

    Sorry that this is off topic, but i figured, when will it ever be on topic?

    Thanks!

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    • That’s pretty much post-worthy Iz. I’ll get there someday. Maybe soon while we’re on the prolactin topic.

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      • Awesome, can’t wait! Getting intellectual blue-balls just thinking about it.

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        • I’ve just finished treating a seriously horrible prostate case (inflammation and agony for 2 years) that was the result of not ejaculating for quite a long time. So, for the record, careful there. :)

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          • Oh, no worries there!

          • I’ve been practicing Karezza for over 25 years. I only come maybe once or twice a year. I have never had a problem with my prostate, and I get it checked both by blood test and manually (ouch!) every year. BTW, I am 52 y.o. I am not going to debate Rebecca on this, because I don’t know a lot about it, but all I can say is that, for the record, this has never been a problem for me.

          • Could you specify what “a long time” amounted to?

    • Pff I just started doing some ray peat specific stuff and It´s giving my metabolism a boost. Suddenly I NEED to release the pressure 2 or 3 times day. Hope this won´t get worse :/ it’s getting annoying.

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  4. My initial experience with weight loss after giving birth (2nd time) was positive, and similar to what Matt describes.

    I ate plenty of food, napped whenever I could, no exercise other than an occasional walk, nursed round the clock, and lost all but 8 lbs of baby weight – I think like 20-25 pounds, within the first few weeks. Then I was pretty stable for almost 2 years, while nursing. This late spring, about 2 years post partum, I suddenly gained 10 pounds. I was consciously trying to eat more and do some strength training (but no other exercise but walking) around the time of the gain. I am at the exact same highest weight that I once hit almost 10 years ago during a very stressful time, after which I dropped about 20 lbs without any effort. I had been stable at about 157/160 between pregnancies.

    I am trying HARD to continue to eat as much food as I need to eat, including the major food groups, but it is really hard when I can barely squeeze into my biggest clothes. The other thing is that most of the gain is in my belly, although my thighs, arms, and back are bigger too. I am scared I am going to blow up, and wondering if there could be a medical cause. Help?

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    • My weight used to come off slow and steady postpartum. With my 4th (in 4.5 years – so no breaks between pg/breastfeeding – and I had strong symptoms of adrenal fatigue suddenly at the end of the 4th pregnancy), the weight came off steadily and my stomach was starting to even look flat-ish about 18 months out. Then (I’ll note it was at the same time there was a bunch of stress from several situations over several months) the trend just slowly reversed itself and I started slowly but steadily gaining weight instead of losing or staying put. My son just turned 3 and it has not stopped. I have gained so much weight and am miserable. I don’t diet and have never dieted. I don’t limit myself and gosh, it sure looks like that’s the case. I am most definitely not someone who exercises (when?!). It’s hard for me to do RRARF optimally with 4 little ones to look after, but I do what I can and don’t restrict my diet. I tested my thryoid a couple of years ago and it was very low. Haven’t re-tested but I sure don’t feel improved.

      The 3yo just weaned (the milk is alllllllmost gone and he hasn’t nursed in several weeks) and for once I’m not pregnant, so I’m hoping and praying my hormones will start to right themselves.

      I know this is not encouraging. . . just wanted to throw my story in there with yours in hopes Matt will keep going with this topic.

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      • I’ll add that I get only 8-16 weeks after each birth before my period returns despite frequent breastfeeding and co-sleeping.

        And I stopped getting cold like I used to in high school and college once I started having kids. My thyroid seems depressed, but I’m very warm.

        And my sex drive has not been depressed with any of the kids, or in these 3 years of nursing. It is quite a healthy drive, especially when I’m fertile.

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        • I wonder why there is such a great difference in times of period coming back.

          For my first child, it came few weeks after weaning, which was at 2.5 years.
          I had lots of stressors and even traumas, but managed to sleep a lot because of co-sleeping. I don’t know. Baby was allowed to stay on breast as much as she wanted, which included non-nutritive sucking for long periods of time. I stayed with her during naps and most of the sleep time. I read and slept a lot. There were no pacifiers and she never wanted to suck her thumb.

          Did prolactin stay high or maybe estrogen was not so high to induce period earlier than 2.5 years?

          My body was not in a great state since i got diagnosed with MS 6 months following birth. Then i managed to erase MS symptoms and was clearly no longer in an inflammatory mode, so maybe that helped.

          I’m not sure, but i have very intense love for my kids, and am relatively traditional kind of matriarch, and never had a babysitter, not for one minute. Looks like the latter might also play a role according to one of the links above.

          The love grew even bigger during my second pregnancy with twins. I was chasing family members to outpour my love, and feel same after their birth, except that now it is mainly directed towards babies.

          I don’t know. I’d like to understand this and have another two years of period-free breastfeeding.

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          • ‘I’d like to understand this and have another two years of period-free breastfeeding.”

            Me too! I am so jealous.

            I always always get my period back after 4 months.. even though I practice ecological breastfeeding (no triple nipples, cosleeping, etc). I thought it was because I stop napping with baby at some point… Sheila Kippley says that daily nursenap is important to keeping the fertility away.

            Although I do experience periods without ovulation, I hate that they come back so soon. I never thought this could be due to high estrogen (although it could be something else not sure).

          • We need an answer! I got my cycle back at 4.5 months while nursing two kids round the clock! Someone suggested that it may be the healthier your metabolism the earlier it would appear, which seems right since I’ve been working on it now for a while and started taking natural dessicated thyroid for a couple months. I also use Progest-e here and there. But I definitely don’t get enough sleep nor can I eat the way I want due to caring for a baby. It took a year and half with the last kid, I was not happy about the early return!

          • I thought of that too. Maybe if a woman has a nice amount of progesterone, the prolactin isn’t able to stop the menstruation. So, maybe i have not enough of progesterone, but enough to start ovulating right after prolactin drops upon weaning, and enough to get pregnant as soon as wanted.

            But, nursing was used to control fertility for long periods of time. And it seems to me that it would be better to hold of period as long as possible.

            Maybe it is because i spent all the naptime with baby – which included nursing and comfort sucking. I’m doing the same thing with twins, although i am more overwhelmed than with the first baby. We’ll see what happens!

            I certainly hope there is nothing very seriously wrong with me!!!

            I also have a German friend who had 9 babies (and never had hard time loosing weight). She had last baby when she was 47. She also doesn’t get period until weaning.

            It probably has to do with some fine balance of estrogen, progesterone and prolactin.

          • I was tandem nursing after several of mine too! And always, 4 months like clockwork. I’m VERY fertile (which is why I had 6 babies). Hmm… maybe it isn’t high estrogen then?

          • I don’t know. Maybe we should ask Ray Peat :D

          • My progesterone has been low. NFP docs gave me injections of it weekly early in my first two pregnancies. Never got it tested my second two pregnancies since we lived elsewhere.

            I don’t think any bf’ing organizations have been able to identify why a certain percentage of women practicing ecological bf”ing get their fertility back quickly, but they are aware of the phenomenon. There are plenty of women who *don’t* do it ecologically and still their periods stay away!

            Full ecological bf’ing (yes, even for naps) got me the 4 months, with kid #4. And I’m fertile before the first period, which is how my first two kids are 11 months apart.

          • To add more data to this question:
            I think I didn’t get period for 10 months. Maybe more? But I have good fertility signs now. I had low progesterone and needed supplements for the first 12 wks of pregnancy.

          • With both of mine, doing all the same stuff as per this conversation, I got mine back at 6 weeks – gee, thanks :(
            But for context, this aspect of my hormonal health has always been fantastic, like clockwork, trouble free, including fertility, pregnancies, and the births and postpartum stuff would have been too if I’d kept away from the hospital first time.

          • Yes, hormones are funny things.

            A friend (who got pregnant once while breastfeeding proper, & another time shortly after “weaning”) noticed at some point her babies definitely seem to get easier to wean… One child was incredibly difficult, and used to throw tantrums on the occasions he couldn’t get a feeding immediately. This went on for months, until after one such tantrum, when, once he finally got at the milk, screwed up his face in disgust as if to say “what’s wrong with it?” and never wanted it again (her third child was conceived within a week or two of that event). She is convinced the taste actually changes with the hormone changes.

            Which makes me wonder if breastfeeding really has a contraceptive effect, or whether people have assumed it has because they’ve noticed the correlation between weaning and the return of fertility – even though both might be the result of another causitive factor… Like a drop in baby cohabitation (which could still be indirectly related to the breastfeeding act), or a restoration of vitamin & mineral deficiences caused by the pregnancy process (again, potentially affected/extended by breastfeeding), or… just random hormonal cycle variance?

          • The only thing that seems different between those with early periods that have posted here and me is that i slept a lot more. I slept about 10 hours every night, and some naps too. The first six months i slept as much as baby did, 12 hours, such as from 8pm-8am. Later, i would sleep little later, like 10pm, or wake up little earlier than the baby. This went on the whole 2.5 years. But i remember that i was rarely tired.

            It doesn’t seem that my progesterone would be so low as to put halt to my period, otherwise i wouldn’t be able to sustain full term twin pregnancy without any hormonal supplementation.

            Unfortunately, i’m sleeping much less now. The whole sleep and nap time is a lot more complicated with twins, but i’m trying to be in bed no later than 10:30pm – it makes a huge difference for me.

        • Breastfeeding doesn’t kill my libido either, although it does make my breasts less sensitive to touch. I think it does make me less concerned about orgasm though… probably all the oxytocin? “Nevermind honey, I’m good..” LOL

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          • LOL. Know what you mean!

    • I had a baby almost 4 months ago and I have fifteen pounds to lose. It’s really become a conflict because I feel huge and I just want to exercise the hell out of me and melt it away like I’ve always done in the past when I had weight gain. I had always been really active and into sports but now, I tried exercising and lost almost no weight, and felt like crap. Before the month long exercise stint I actually only had about 10 pounds to lose, and now I 15 pounds to lose, go figure (no pun intended). I’m trying to eat enough but it’s hard to do because we just aren’t a family with stuffed cupboards of goodies and because I’m in school I have a hard time cooking. Also, I seem to be the only person in Argentina who is saying to do the opposite to lose weight: eat and rest. My postnatal doctor and boyfriend think I’m crazy :-P I think I’m going to go out for ice cream now.

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  5. Gracioso.

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  6. Very interesting…especially since I’m sitting here nursing a 14-week-old & scarfing down yet another meal while I’m reading this (we moms are super-ninja multi-taskers). And I, too, have lost about 30 pounds so far eating like a horse (I LOVE bfeeding for that reason, by the way). And I also notice that weeks when I’m not sleeping much & am stressed, I don’t lose anything. But I’ve never tried to cut back on calories or anything post-partum, since I’m afraid I’ll lose my milk. I usually end up TRYING to gain back some weight about a year post-partum. About the nursing-birth-control thing – don’t put TOO much stock in it being a reliable method, as I nursed my first child through conception and pregnancy of my second. Not that I would recommend it, but that’s just how it worked. And I have two girlfriends with “surprise” kids because they relied on the old bfeeding-birth-control. I’m super-sensitive to hormones & can tell day-by-day when they shift, so it’s interesting to read exactly what’s going on. Milkies rule – nice to see them in the blogosphere limelight.

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  7. I’ve been nursing and/or pregnant for 8 years straight now, does this mean that when I’m finally done I may have some hope of losing the extra 30-40lbs I’ve been carrying around since my first pregnancy? I’d all but given up hope.

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  8. I’ve never had a weight issue, but with each of my two pregnancies I gained about 50 pounds (am normally around 110). I’ve never been much of an exerciser and even with the extra rolls after birth, I never entertained the thought of going for a jog or to the gym. I was so busy just being a new mom!! I ate a ton of food and lost the extra weight within the first year, nursing on demand. Of course I was very busy and probably more so with the second baby since my husband took on a second job working close to 70 hours a week. That time it also took longer to regain my pre-pregnancy weight than the first time (close to 12 mos vs 3 mos). And I also ate a crapload of whole millet. Not a good idea to get massive amounts of goitrogens postpartum, probably. Eventually I developed a strong distaste for it, but not soon enough.

    Thanks for that explanation on prolactin and decreased sex drive. After my first baby, my sex drive didn’t return until I stopped nursing 30 months later. It was like a light switch turned on, really. But my husband still won’t believe it, cause now second time around, my “baby” is still nursing 5 years later and although it’s fairly infrequent, there’s no strong urge quite yet.

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    • Why should we avoid goitrogens postpartum? What should I be eating to lose weight?

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      • I think post-partum a woman is more vulnerable to thyroid dysfunction because of the extra stress. Goitrogens inhibit thyroid function if eaten in excess. Millet would be fine if the hull is removed, but it’s a bit of a process. I think it’s done through wet milling in Africa.

        An emphasis on carbs would probably be a good thing post-partum. I know I had very strong cravings for millet (a ‘sweet’ grain) as well as baked till caramelized various winter squashes drizzled with honey. I ate that stuff several times a week for months and didn’t get sick of it.

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        • Thanks! Good to know.

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  9. This is an awesome post! I work with pregnant women in my line of work, and I love seeing info about the postpartum period!

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  10. Thanks for this post, will definitely have my husband read it! He’s always saying that he loves me the way I am but just do some exercise and cut out the sweets. Kind of contradictory I think. I just had a baby 7 weeks ago and very desperately wish I could lose this weight I’ve put on. I’m very self conscious and depressed about it. I’m about 4 sizes larger than I was when I got married and I’m only 5’2″ so its all over and doesn’t look so good in my opinion. With my first two babies I lost most of the pregnancy weight with no problem, with my third I think I got back to within 10lbs or so but still had a belly, which may be related to my split stomach muscles now that I know more about that. With my 4th baby I gained 10 lbs more than with the 1st 3 and only lost 15 lbs of that, which was very hard to take. Now I’ve just had my 5th baby and gained the same amount I did with my 4th and I’ve lost 20 lbs and gained back 3 or 4 probably. I’ve decided to stop weighing myself because its too depressing and stressful. Next I need to stop looking in the mirror because I despise what I see. I’m the girl that was always so skinny and never had to worry about being fat! Now, all my friends that weren’t as skinny as me are way skinnier! So, this really bites to be so fat! To make things even worse some of our friends that have always had a weight problem are going on diets and getting skinny and looking so good. It’s so hard to eat enough, but I’m going to try to make sure I eat more. I wish I could sleep more, I hate taking a nap because I wake up so depressed and groggy because I feel like I could sleep for a 100 years! But maybe I need to just take the nap and things will get better, except that is also the time when I can get things done or just have some relaxing kid free time while my kids nap.

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  11. Very interesting.

    I was on domperidone, which stimulates prolactin, for about a year in order to contimue pumping milk for my medically complex son.

    I went off in April 2011 to lose weight for a June wedding (I was all of 125lbs)… and instead immediately began gaining a pound a week, until some 8-9 months later I plateaued at 160+ lbs.

    I’ve often wondered if there was a correlation btwn the domperidone/prolactin and the weight gain. Granted, I was also under incredible stress all that time, and for several months after I stopped pumping, sleeping crappy, etc. So who knows.

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  12. Being in this kind of state post-partum, combined with trying to eat healthy and drink lots of water (common advice for breastfeeding moms) and a history of over-exercise led me straight to the hells of post-partum depression. Started off the first month with being icy cold all the time, dizzy, felt horrible and headachy each time I nursed, plus peeing all the time for the first time in my life (hypoglycemia?). I was eating salad and low-fat fish and brown rice, avoiding sugar and salt and drinking way too much water. Within 6 weeks I was suffering intense panic attacks, severe depression and ended up as an outpatient. I found myself drooling, junked up on klonipin and other heavy duty drugs, in a room full of people with major personality disorders. Wish I would have known then what I have learned from you now.I think I could have been cured without going through a year of crappy drug treatment if I had just stopped drinking so much water and eaten foods I was really craving (salt, salt, salt, sugar, sugar, sugar). At least maybe I would have slept better and therefore avoided the downward spiral.

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  13. Sorry to spoil the joke here, but what does Tom Cruise have to do this? drawing a blank …

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    • Something about Scientology and mental health…I think they don’t believe in psychological problems/psychotropic medicine.

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    • Tom = Scary/crazy?

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    • About 5 years ago he was vibing Brooke Shields for using drugs to help her post-partum depression on a major news network.

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  14. Just to throw my story in… I’ve had two babies and lost weight quickly without trying both times, eating as much as I like.
    Just wondering about postpartum mood stuff… why does PMS get worse postpartum, once periods return? Its happening to me – I never used to get it. Still breastfeeding.
    Also, I don’t like to think of my body as being in a “sub-optimal, compromised state”. I thinks my milky-boobed body is pretty fucking amazing – but yeah, I do know what you mean.

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    • Gotta agree there. Birth, pregnancy and postpartum do not put women into a “sub-optimal, compromised state” of necessity. It may be a season of emotional and physical tenderness, lack of sleep, moodiness, and vulnerability, but it’s definitely not sub-optimal. I think we were designed to slow down and just enjoy the baby, nurse, and not worry about much else. The hormones of breastfeeding support this kind of easy-going mind-frame. I certainly felt much more even keeled and carefree while nursing even with three other children and a husband to keep me on my toes, and I promptly got all obsessive and anxious upon weaning. :-) Having a supportive network to educate and encourage women in that is sometimes the most important thing.

      Hey, Matt, you’ve read so much in the realm of health, why not read a whole bunch of stuff about pregnancy, birth and postpartum. It would be great to hear your take on it, since you’ve delved into Postpartum here. If you haven’t already, try Ina May Gaskin, Marsden Wagner, Sheila Kitzinger, Penny Simpkin, Elizabeth Davis, Gloria Lemay, Midwifery Today magazine and forums, the Business of Being Born, Dr. Sears, and your local homebirth midwives, La Leche League folks, and Bradley Childbirth Education teachers.

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  15. So here’s my question. I’ve never birthed a full term baby but I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks, followed by a D&C. That was 6 years ago, but I swear my body hasn’t been the same since. It’s like my hormones went wacky and never recovered. I gained about 60 lbs within a few months which I’ve never been able to lose, and soon developed anxiety which has raged out of control at times. Could the abrupt end of the pregnancy and lack of post partum hormone release caused my hormones to get stuck in wacky mode?

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    • I am curious too, now that you mentioned it. I had an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in surgery at 14 weeks, 6 years ago and feel the same way…except the out of control anger. I’ve been dealing with depression, but still have pretty awful anxiety.

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      • I haven’t experienced any anger, but my anxiety has been out of control at times.

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        • Someone here a few months ago recommended “Hope and Help For Your Nerves” by Claire Weekes. That book was AWESOME and helped me so much with anxiety and O-C thinking. Just FYI and thank you to whomever mentioned it last time.

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          • Thanks! My anxiety is through the roof sometimes

          • That was me who recommended it! I’m so glad someone else got good results from it! It was a lifesaver for me!

          • Thank you, then! What an awesome little book. I love all the old-school language, it seems so much more honest than any of today’s psycho-babble. I am still taking anti-anxiety drugs, but the book really helped to change my perspective about lots of things that go on inside my head, and I plan to keep it close by once I start to wean off the drugs.

          • oh I totally agree. I really appreciated the plain language in the book. It was instrumental to helping me get thru my wean. There were times it was an insane struggle between my mind and body, and that book gave me the explanations I needed – I just kept repeating some of her info to myself until I got thru it. My anxiety is 95% under control now. It only shows up when I don’t get enough sleep.

  16. I love this post– because if I could solve what was going for me postpartum then I could maybe live out my days in blissful uber health and beauty. In the immediate post-partum period for both of my pregnancies, I was like super-hormone, awesome woman. Both my pregnancies were fairly unremarkable with limited weight gain– 35 in the first and about 20 in the second ( I was a little overweight before the first and about 35 lbs overweight before the second.), no acne, rashes, or stretch marks. Anyway, in the 2 or 3 weeks immediately postpartum for both, the weight came flying off, but I also looked really awesome. My skin is okay normally, but postpartum it glowed like a milkmaid and my lips which are normally pretty pale were bright red. My hair which is kind of wavy and tends towards frizziness, looked like I had had it professionally blown out and then curled (can hair really react to hormones? I thought it was dead?) and I was really energetic. People who saw me would comment on my appearance (and not polite, but in a what are you doing and amazed sort of way) For my first pregnancy, this took a dramatic turn when they started me on the estrogen free birth control pills (progestin? only I think.) I had lost 25 lbs in 6 weeks, but it started flying back on. My skin along my jaw broke out in terrible acne like I had never had. At the time, I was fighting newborn exhaustion and I had dislocated my tailbone during delivery which was keeping me from being very active — so I assumed all my problems were lack of sleep, eating too much, not exercising, etc…I didn’t make the connection with the bc pills until later. Just as a side note, after seeing several of the military docs about the acne, I went to see a DO dermatologist on my own dime– she told me not to take those bc pills anymore and put me on spironalactone (sp?) an aldosterone blocker/ diuretic and my acne was completely gone within 2 weeks. I stopped taking the medication after 30 days because my skin was clear, but I wonder if I would have lost the weight if I had continued. Anyway, I had a similar experience with my second child– beautiful skin, hair, and easy weight loss for a few weeks, with a slow creep of a return to normal (definitely didn’t do the bc pills that time.) For a while I thought it might be the blood loss having a cleansing effect as I also have a mini version of this beauty high on the first day of my period; But, after reading 180 degree, I’ve come to think I might have been hyperthyroid for a short period of time. I have no thyroid and am dependent on thyroid hormone, but I’m pretty sure I’m somewhat resistant to the t4/t3 conversion. Anyway, that’s my war story. Sorry if it’s tmi, I’m not normally one to comment, but I’ve been on a 180 confessional spree.

    Reply
  17. RBTI post-partum or while breastfeeding?

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  18. Wow Matt you’ve painted a lovely picture of postpartum life here! I wonder why this collection of symptoms postpartum is so common – surely it’s not to our advantage to go nutso after giving birth. Is it something we’re doing in our modern world to cause it? And is the answer to sit around a lot and eat? (Which is probably why many ancient cultures have a 40 day period of lying in where mom is pampered and fed special foods and expected to do little other than get to know her baby? Wisdom, that.)

    No mention of oxytocin here but it’s mom’s little friend… responsible for milk letdown but also present after orgasm… which is why many breastfeeding moms say nursing makes them “tired”. It’s really making them *chill* and *relaxed* and they need to listen to that.

    After my last two babies I’ve noticed a strange symptom. I start chewing on the inside of my mouth. I must be doing it in my sleep too because I wake up with my cheeks scarred at the line of my teeth and my tongue is scalloped. Hubby says I’m bruxing occasionally too.

    I started using progesterone cream last week and it seems a little better.

    Interesting about the estrogen dominant thing… I would never have thought of myself as estrogen dominant because I don’t get PMS and I’ve not overweight but I guess it’s still possible.

    I’m off to get some chocolate chip cookies now.

    Reply
    • It looks like we don’t all get same symptoms of estrogen dominance. The only one i had was heavy bleeding, and there was no PMS whatsoever.

      And nursing makes me so sleeepy. Oh God, if i am nursing laying down and in a semi-sleepy mode, i cannot possibly stop myself from falling asleep, even if i’m thirsty or whatever.

      Reply
  19. Hey Matt,

    ‘As a male, just think of the strength of your desire for sex immediately after sex. Not so high is it? How are your energy levels? Feel like a workout? ‘

    How’s this relate to the Coolidge Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolidge_effect)? Male mammals tend to display renewed sexual excitement if a new female presents herself, reducing or even eliminating the refractory period. Would that mean prolactin levels fall, or an antagonistic hormone (testosterone?) rises? If so, does that suggest that environmental factors could directly impact these hormonal landscapes?

    Also- nice shout out to male lactation. I remember reading about that years ago, and I couldn’t believe it. Anyone know what triggers it?

    Reply
    • It seems like abstaining from orgasm would have a positive effect on dopamine, testosteron and prolactin levels? On the other hand maybe it increases stress hormones after a certain period of abstinence?

      I think it might definitely be a missing link in human wellbeing and relationships.

      Reply
    • sucking can trigger it. Seriously there have been a few reports of men who were able to breastfeed when a baby was sucking. Google “men who lactate”. ours are just bigger with more fat, but boobs are just elaborate sweat glands. ;)

      Reply
  20. The book “Cupids Poisoned Arrow” by Marnia Robinson is on this subject. She proposes that these hormonal changes post orgasm are an evolutionary mechanism for seeking out new mates and diversifying the gene pool, or something like that

    Reply
  21. “Postpartum Lesson #5 – Our bodies do have a mechanism that triggers spontaneous weight loss, with or without performing physical activity, and without consciously restricting food intake. Skipping meals, starving yourself, cutting out certain macronutrients, trying to will yourself to go jogging instead of taking a nap – these stresses can actually shut this natural process down, or at the very least awaken a strong drive to store fat in the future.”

    This could very well be the heart of the matter. _PROVE_ this and the world is your oyster Matt. I’m rooting for you.

    Reply
  22. Totally unrelated question, I’m sorry:

    I currently intermittent fast out of convience until I get home from school at 3-4 pm and then eat until I go to bed at 8-9 pm, but during the eariler parts of the day (9-10 am) I experience the typical symptoms of a low metabolism you keep talking about (cold hands and feet, brain fog, hypoglycemia, and so on). I have reduced my fluid intake during the fasting window, which seemed to have relieved the symptoms somewhat. However, according to your advice, I should probably quit IF altogether and instead eat most of my calories for breakfast and lunch. But as I said, I do IF out of convience – I simply don’t have the time to eat a big breakfast nor lunch as I’m very busy. There is also the simple fact that I’d like to enjoy my food at home, plus eating a big meal at 6-7 am before school doesn’t sound very tempting :)

    So, what would you advice someone in my situation? Can a change in food choices/macronutrient ratios/fluid intake at night or something of the sort, help with my hypothyroid-ish symptoms at 9-10 am?

    Thanks

    Btw, I’m a 17 year old Norwegian (-> suckish English). 140 lb @ 5’9.

    Reply
    • Boy. I’m a 17 year old Norwegian boy :)

      Reply
  23. Various things about postpartum care will be more important to know the woman who gave birth to her first child. Been many physiological and hormonal changes in women who had given birth. Its usually not known by young mothers, or women who first gave birth. So that postpartum care is very important to know.

    Reply
  24. I’ve been all out of whack since my pregnancy (my son is 3 and a half). Immediately after giving birth something just seemed wrong as I had horrible breakouts on my normally very nice skin. And my skin glowed during pregnancy. Then there was the fatigue. The cyst on my thyroid. Zero sex drive (God bless my husband for what he’s put up with). Horrible headaches. Major insomnia. I nursed my son for two and half years and didn’t have any problems with weight gain. I lost my pregnancy weight very quickly, eating tons of food and rarely exercising as I was just too tired. But as soon as I stopped nursing my appetite became non-existent and I gained 5-10 lbs particularly in my stomach, which is strange because I have NEVER before had fat on my stomach. But the hardest part is that my muscle tone, which used to be great is totally gone. I don’t feel strong like I used to. And I am still so tired. And freezing. But I was wondering if there is a correlation with high body temperature and high progesterone levels and low body temperature and high prolactin levels? I would be really curious to know if you have an answer.

    Reply
    • If you read some of Matt’s other postings, that is exactly what he is saying.

      Reply
  25. I was able to lose weight after my first four pregnancies, but after my fifth have not been able to lose anything. I suffered post partum depression with this one. I actually felt my hormones change at around 6 weeks post-partum – was terrible. Was on meds but off now. I suffer mainly from low progesterone. It really kicks in after ovulation. I get massively frustrated and depressed and it is effecting my life enormously. Pleeeeeeeeease tell me how to balance my hormones?????????? Where do I start????

    Reply
  26. You could go to one of the bioidentical hormone establishments which are popping up everywhere. They draw blood and sometimes check saliva and replace whatever your in short supply of. Seems like most women, at the very least need progesterone. Seems like low progesterone is at the root of many female problems. Good luck

    Reply
    • Nik, I would recommend reading “Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life” by Claudia Welch. It’s amazing and gives several DIY things to balance hormones (like breathing exercises) which have allowed her patients to balance hormones without resorting to bioidenticals. I found it to be one of the most helpful books I’ve read in a very long time. She provides a lot of recommendations, which would be overwhelming if you tried to do them all, but she says doing just one or 2 can make all the difference.

      And overall, in addition to encouraging a healthy diet of non-processed foods, all of her advice makes up one big message: practice self-care which will lower stress hormones.

      Reply
  27. Postpartum fartin works for me.

    Reply
  28. In order to find the best nutrition for you and your baby during pregnancy, become a label reader. There are many extra chemicals and ingredients that may not be best for your growing baby and reading labels is the way to keep them out of your diet. It just takes a minute to protect your baby.

    Reply
  29. I just gave birth 10 days ago :-). Before my daughter came, I was craving sweets & junk food like nobody’s business, & my hubby would just look at me & go “really dear? Is that good for the baby?” As soon as I delivered, I completely lost all appetite for junk of any kind, even white flour & rice. I’m on the healthiest diet i’ve ever been on in my entire life with no struggles to stick to it, and I can tell I’m rapidly dropping weight. Before baby was born I was trying to lose weight for my wedding (she was conceived on our honeymoon week), and I struggled for months to drop below 160 without losing & keeping off a single pound. Now I feel like I actually have hope of losing weight & getting back down to where I was when I was training to be a pro ballet dancer & at my best:120-125! I plan to resume ballet classes for exercise & enjoyment after 6wk doctor go-ahead. I hope it doesn’t hurt my weight loss progress.

    Reply

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