You’ve just been through nine months of changes. You’ve experienced the aches, pains, discomfort, and unbalanced hormones. Your body did things you never thought humanly possible – all in the name of love.
What you may not have been prepared for was for your body to continue doing odd things and acting in weird ways, even weeks after the baby arrived. You have hormones to blame for this. Thanks to them, your body goes through a rollercoaster of changes throughout the whole process, from conception to years after the arrival of your new little one.
What Do Estrogen and Progesterone Do During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen, the hormones responsible for helping the body maintain pregnancy, peak. Progesterone helps to keep the uterus muscle relaxed and plays a role in helping the body’s immune system tolerate a foreign invader (the baby). Estrogen also peaks early on in the pregnancy before tapering off for the rest of the incubation period. It helps to stimulate hormone production in the fetus’s adrenal gland, stimulates growth of the adrenal gland, and enhances the uterus, enabling it to respond to oxytocin.
Estrogen is typically responsible for skin changes during pregnancy, including changes in pigment. It’s also responsible for that pregnancy “glow.”
What Happens to Hormones After Pregnancy?
Both progesterone and estrogen levels drop, but progesterone seems to really crash immediately following delivery, dipping down to close to menopausal levels. The result is hair loss, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and menstrual problems. This is also the cause of the “baby blues” many women experience.
In addition, stresses during the pregnancy, delivery, and lack of sleep afterwards can lead to out-of-balance thyroid and adrenal glands.
It may take up to a year after childbirth for your hormones to completely level out and return to normal. If you’re breastfeeding it may take longer.
So what are some of the most common types of problems, and what can you do to help yourself be more comfortable, happy, and feel more beautiful?
Your complexion can take a very long time to come back to normal after you’ve delivered. Increased sebum production and clogged pores thanks to hormonal swings can lead to some confused skin, and your new lifestyle can really take its toll, leading to postpartum acne. Think about it. You now have new stress, are sleep deprived, and have next to zero time for skin care. It’s no wonder you’re now breaking out! I have even worse news. If you were acne prone during your teen years or first trimester, your acne will most likely be worse during your postpartum weeks and months.
Opting for a benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid product can help if you do break out and it’s safe for nursing mothers. (Avoid salicylic acid-based formulas). Ditch your old makeup lineup for cosmetics that are oil-free (non-pore-clogging). Pay attention to your moisturizer. Dry skin can lead to postpartum acne due to your skin trying to make up for the lack of moisture, creating skin that feels dry but greasy.
Those are helpful, but the best way to combat those breakouts is to eat a healthy postpartum diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Spider Veins on the Face After Pregnancy
Hormones coupled with increased blood circulation can cause facial veins to stand out more than usual. Small reddish blood vessels branching out around the face (especially around the nostrils and cheeks), neck, and upper body make you feel like you look like you’ve been binge drinking until all hours last night.
Most women notice an improvement four to six months post-birth, but some will require a dermatologist’s help to lessen their appearance. You could try red raspberry extract, a bioflavonoid and hormone-rich ingredient that helps to strengthens vessels. Emollients like olive oil or shea butter can help to keep the skin around the vessels soft.
Postpartum Night Sweats
This is a problem probably no one warned you about. Night sweats. Leaving you waking up in the middle of the night gross, covered in cold clammy sweat, and wondering what is wrong with you. As long as you don’t have any aches, pains, or fever there’s nothing wrong. Your hormones are trying to figure out what’s going on and find some balance.
Plummeting estrogen and the desire to rid itself of the extra fluid you’ve been hanging onto recently, lead your body to expel copious amounts of water from your pores in the middle of the night. If your pregnancy happened to land during the heat of summer, you probably retained even more water than normal, so you will be prone to extra-productive fluid expulsion.
Help yourself out by keeping your bedroom as cool as possible and wearing as little clothing as possible (so you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night and change). Protect your mattress with a good liner and sleep on top of a towel. This stage should only last for the first couple of weeks.
The “Baby Blues” & Postpartum Depression
Some mood issues are common during the first few weeks to months following birth. The hormones, lack of sleep, loss of nutrients, and giant life change are responsible. A little sad, weepy, and overwhelmed can be a usual response. This can occur in women soon after giving birth.
Anything more severe or long lasting coupled with negative thoughts, sadness, or anxiety, or difficulty coping are cause for concern and could be postpartum depression. It’s time to reach out to your health care provider for help. You’re not superwoman, so there’s no sense pretending you are.
Nutrient depletion common during pregnancy can have a significant impact on what happens with your mood and cause an increased risk of depression. Pay careful attention to your diet, particularly before giving birth to be sure you’re providing your body with what it needs.