One mom shares her story of the surprising impact that postpartum hormones had on her mental health after birth.
Pregnant people have nine months to acclimate to chaos regarding their hormones. Upon receiving notice that I was pregnant, I went from elated to nauseated within weeks.
I remained securely strapped into a hormone roller coaster. I was in heightened emotional states for the next nine months of my pregnancy. I was extremely excited; then I would get unbearably sad, followed by uncharacteristically anxious—my emotions were all over the place.
Hormones and your postpartum mental health
For some unfounded reason, I believed that after I gave birth, I would miraculously “go back to normal.” This was not the case. I found little relief. I entered motherhood sleep deprived and exhausted.
My labor was long, and I found rest illusive in the days and weeks following delivery. Sleep deprivation is never good for one’s endocrine system or mental health. I suffered from undiagnosed postpartum anxiety.
I don’t know if I can credit the concern to hormones, sleep deprivation, or the natural fears accompanying becoming a mom for the first time. I presume all three factors played a role in my turbulent mental state.
I was one of those women who always wanted to be a mother, so having my baby was a dream come true! I survived on adrenaline and pure joy for the first week. Around day seven, the baby blues set in.
I journeyed through hours of uncontrollable crying spells. Maybe I had my head under a rock, but the baby blues surprised me for some reason. I felt my doctors had not sufficiently warned me of this common occurrence.
Thankfully, the baby blues came and went within days. Upon further reflection, I now believe that baby blues occur from a spiritual perspective because the mother is grieving the loss of her former self.
Hormonal changes in the first year postpartum
Through the fourth trimester, if not longer, I continued to suffer from intrusive thoughts. I feared the worst possible things could happen to my sweet baby girl. I incessantly checked for her breath and ensured her environment was safeguarded.
It’s necessary to take precautions when you have a newborn, but my worries were all-consuming. My body was tense. My cortisol levels were through the roof, and I was in a continual fight-or-flight state
Seven or eight months postpartum, I was finally feeling more “normal” or “like myself,” but my hormones continued to wreak havoc. The long-thick locks I maintained during pregnancy started falling out in clumps. I acquired bald patches near my temples.
Read next: Your Postpartum Hormone Timeline
And due to the high levels of prolactin my body created due to nursing, I had zero libido. In addition, I smelled. No one talks about this, but making a different body odor postpartum is not unusual. For months, I experimented with dozens of deodorants. Nothing worked.
Thankfully, by the time my daughter turned one year old, I was sleeping, my anxiety returned to a manageable baseline, my hair stopped falling out, and my tried-and-true deodorant worked again.
My libido didn’t return until a few months after I stopped nursing, and my sex drive remains lower than it was pre-baby. Becoming a mother is no joke. No part of a woman’s life is unaffected by becoming a mother, and our hormones are no exception.
Unfortunately, the inconvenient presentations of some hormones are the same ones we celebrate because those hormones are responsible for making a baby. As women and moms, we are forced to practice venerated levels of resilience.
When you’re in the thick of the mess of postpartum hormones, please remember— you’re not nuts, you’re not alone, and this is temporary.
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Kristen Lillian Riordan has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling; she is an Ayurveda Counselor, Yoga Teacher, Wife and Mom. Kristen has been featured in Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, and Mantra Magazine. Clueless & Wise: Pregnancy, Postpartum, Early Motherhood: Adorable, Raw & Taboo is her third book, following— Your Life is Medicine: Ayurveda for Yogis, and Love Fearlessly: The Soulmate Within. She lives in St. Petersburg, FL.