The fourth trimester – A guide to your postnatal hormones

The fourth trimester – A guide to your postnatal hormones

The 4th Trimester 

The shift in hormones after the birth of your baby is the single most impactful change a woman will ever experience in her life as well as a shift in identity similar to adolescence and the term I’m loving for this right now is Matresence!

I have put together a quick and easy to understand guide to help you understand what is happening with your hormones in the days and weeks after you give birth.


Baby blues


During pregnancy, your progesterone levels are elevated to a level equivalent to taking 100 birth control pills.

In the few days after the birth, The progesterone drops down dramatically to a pre-pregnancy level in a very short space of time and we are left with estrogen dominating.


Think of it like coming on your period times 100 – I will just leave that there for you….


Let’s throw in recovery from birth however straightforward or even the possibility of major survey from a c section.

Lack of sleep likes to show up to the party too.


Emotional disturbance is common at this time which of course as with PMT, we all experience differently.

Research shows that  60 and 80 percent of women experience some kind of baby blues in the first few days after giving birth.  It’s totally normal to feel upset or sad or angry for a few days If this lasts longer than a week or so then it’s always a good idea to seek support and share this with someone you trust and a midwife or GP.


Baby blues is different to postnatal depression which can show signs up to a year after birth.


Hopefully by the end of the first week. Oxytocin levels have gone back up to a level which helps to balance your hormones out a bit. 


The role of Oxytocin


The role of oxytocin, which is one of the pivotal hormones when it comes to birth, also plays a starring role after the birth too. No rest for the wicked!


We receive a BIG dose of oxytocin when we give birth to our baby naturally. It’s what helps us to form an instant bond with them (aka fall in love with a tiny shriveled raisin) in a heartbeat.


This big rush of oxytocin is what instigates prolactin (your milk-making hormone) once prolactin is released into the body, you start to convert brown fat into breast milk to be able to feed your baby.


Your uterus will continue to shrink in size for about 8 weeks after the birth of your baby. We need oxytocin for this.

Things that we instinctively do as a mother,  like skin to skin contact with baby and breastfeeding can help to support oxytocin production in this time, which can help this process of the uterus getting back to normal.


Oxytocin and breastfeeding


Oxytocin is also key for breastfeeding.

When baby starts to suckle on the nipple, oxytocin is released and this causes let down of milk in the breasts.

Some women report a sense of deep peace and relaxation when breastfeeding and that is oxytocin at work yet again. It’s like a reward to help is to enjoy it.


It’s not always the case though. Consider this scenario.

We release oxytocin when we feel, safe, private and comfortable.

So if you find yourself in a situation where breastfeeding is hard, consider your environment and how this might be affecting how you feel.

Is there someone there who you feel uncomfortable feeding in front of? Perhaps you are in a public environment or maybe you haven’t found a comfy position.

These things and many more can inhibit your oxytocin production which can affect on let down which could, in turn impact your experience with breastfeeding.

I specifically recall my pre pumping routine which involved stroking my boobs gently, a guided meditation to get nice and relaxed and looking at photos of my little one when he wasn’t in the room with me, it was all about getting the oxytocin primed!


What else are my hormones doing?


Common postnatal symptoms include

  • Hot sweats/night sweats
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain.

Yes conversely to what you might think, sometimes women find it harder to lose weight when breastfeeding or actually put weight on and it’s all down to hormones.  


My best advice is play the long game.  Eating a balanced diet without restricting and your regular portions. Exercise gently when you feel ready not when you think you should. I’m pretty sure it took me a year to get back to feeling like my pre pregnancy self.


So when will I be back to normal hormonally?


It could be weeks, it could be months or a year and if you are breastfeeding then it may not be until after you stop breastfeeding. Although your hormones might still be out of whack it’s worth noting you CAN still get pregnant even if you are breastfeeding


What to do

  • Be kind to yourself and your body first and foremost. You don’t need to punish yourself or push yourself at this point in time. R and R is queen!
  • Ask for help if you need it, be it from friends, family or paying a cleaner. We were not designed to do this on our own!
  • Talk to your partner, or better still, get them to read this so they have a basic understanding of what you are going through.


Last of all, be patient. It took 9 months or more for your body to grow this baby from seed and it may take the same for it to recover…or more.


Thank You for reading. Please feel free to share this blog post with anyone you think could benefit from reading.  


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