This article will start with a bit of a biology lesson — but don’t worry — we’ll keep it brief and simple. It’s helpful to understand what these hormones do in order to manage them. Then we’ll breakdown some of the common symptoms that tend to follow women’s hormone changes after pregnancy and what you can do to support your postpartum recovery.
Let’s jump straight in by answering our title question — how long does it take for hormones to settle after giving birth?
The short and simple answer is that it can take up to six weeks before you start to feel normal again. The long and complicated answer is that it will depend on a number of circumstances, and recovery times will vary for each individual.
Postpartum Hormones: What Are They?
When we talk about settling hormones postpartum, many women are looking to avoid or at least minimize the effects of the baby blues, which may include symptoms like extreme mood swings, anxiety, lack of energy, and depression.
So what exactly is happening to your body?
It may be helpful to understand the hormones that are at play in your body, leading up to the birth of your baby and up to possibly six weeks after delivery.
Estrogen is one of the essential reproductive hormones in the female body. It’s produced in the ovaries and plays a vital role in pregnancy to thicken the uterine lining and develop the fetus.
During pregnancy, your estrogen levels rise and will be at its highest levels by the third trimester. As soon as the baby is born, your estrogen will drop significantly, which is what many experts believe contributes to the baby blues.
Progesterone comes from the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and the placenta (during pregnancy).
Pre-pregnancy, progesterone’s job is to prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg by stimulating the fortification of the uterine walls after ovulation.
Once pregnant, progesterone levels are at its highest as its being produced by the placenta to maintain pregnancy. You can also thank progesterone (and relaxin) for loosening your muscles, ligaments, and joints to accommodate your growing baby — women’s bodies are truly amazing!
Your progesterone levels dive as soon as you give birth to your baby. It won’t rise again until you experience your period, which can take six to eight weeks after delivery (though this may vary if you are exclusively breastfeeding).
Low progesterone levels may also lead to baby blues symptoms, irregularities in your menstrual cycle, weight gain, decreased sex drive, and headaches.
While progesterone and estrogen levels dip after pregnancy, prolactin — which has steadily been increasing throughout your pregnancy — remains steady after you give birth. This hormone triggers women’s bodies to produce breastmilk, while progesterone and estrogen can interfere with this system.
What’s interesting about prolactin is that there appears to be a relationship between prolactin and dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. An increase in prolactin can also result in moodiness, fatigue, and weight gain.
Now that we have a general idea of the critical hormones at play, let’s get into the possible effects of these hormonal changes and what you can do to mitigate them.
The Aftermath Of Postpartum Hormonal Changes And What You Can Do
Decreased Sex Drive
Many women experience an increase in sexual arousal while pregnant. Higher levels of estrogen and progesterone ramp up the libido. It makes sense that after birth, your libido plummets along with estrogen and progesterone levels.
There can be other contributing factors to the decrease in sex drive, such as stress levels, reduced body confidence, and experiencing a lack of intimacy with the new baby to care for. Just as it took time to grow your baby, be patient with your body, and trust that your hormones will settle.
In the mean time, you can learn healthy stress management techniques, start exercising with the help of a postpartum girdle, and have someone mind your baby so you and your partner can have some quality time together.
Ok, grab the Kleenex box — Every little thing will set your tears into motion. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and emotional after giving birth. Your hormones are primarily to blame here, but you’re also undergoing a significant life change.
Here’s what you can do to manage your mood swings:
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep — ask for help when you need to, so you can catch up on shut-eye and take naps when you can get them.
- Avoid sugary, processed foods — spiking your blood sugar will lead to eventual drops, which means irritability, anxiety, and fatigue.
- Exercise — with the help of a post-pregnancy girdle, you can get back to exercising sooner. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, which will help stabilize your mood.
- Talk it out — you don’t have to go through this alone. Reach out to your network of moms for support.
If you’re feeling extreme feelings of sadness or depression and are having a difficult time caring for yourself and your baby, please reach out to a professional for treatment.
You can expect to lose baby weight in the first couple weeks after birth — however, this is mostly your body ridding itself of fluid retention and swelling. When you experience a plateau in your weight loss or experience weight gain after pregnancy, this may be yet another outcome of hormonal imbalance.
If you notice you’re keeping more weight around the hips and thighs, this may indicate an estrogen and progesterone imbalance — typically after pregnancy and childbirth, you have estrogen dominance in relation to lower levels of progesterone, which affect your body’s metabolism and fat storage. A DIM (diindolylmethane) supplement, derived from broccoli, can help support estrogen imbalance.
Another reason you may be gaining weight is due to increased stress levels. Stress is perfectly normal, as your life has changed drastically with a new baby. However, prolonged stress can lead to major negative consequences on your health.
Stress releases the fight-or-flight hormone, cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to stress-eating, increasing your daily caloric intake. Studies prove that you can reduce your cortisol levels naturally through meditation, exercise, listening to calming music, and spending time in nature.
Make Your Postpartum Recovery Easier
The good news is you don’t have to go through any of this alone. Our mission at Bellefit is to provide real support and confidence to women after they give birth through our online blog community of women and postpartum girdles and corsets.
Whether you’ve gone through vaginal or c-section birth, a high-quality postpartum girdle has helped many moms recover from the undesirable aftermaths of hormone imbalance.
How does an undergarment do this?
Postpartum girdles are more than just fancy shape-wear underwear. With medical-grade compression, our garments decrease inflammation in the torso and supports the core to help women get back to their daily routines and exercises sooner. And by now, you should understand the importance of exercise in increasing energy levels, fighting off the baby blues, and getting your pre-pregnancy body back.
If you have any concerns about your post-pregnancy recovery, or you have advice to give to women on what to expect for their pregnancy, giving birth, and what helped you settle your hormones sooner, please leave a comment or question below.