Guest Blog by Dr. Jolene Brighten:
You may have been warned about the massive fluctuations in hormones after childbirth. The fallout from the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone in the weeks following birth results in different symptoms for different women, but the biggies are changes in energy, sex drive, and mood. This hormonal shift, in conjunction with your new sleeping schedule (fun!), and the general stressors of being a mother can make it difficult for your body and hormones to normalize. The longer your body struggles with hormone imbalance, the longer you’ll struggle with unwanted weight, fatigue, diminished sex drive, and possible mood disorders. On the flipside, there are things we can do to support hormone balance naturally, so your body can handle those inevitable day-to-day stressors without losing your cool or passing out from exhaustion at the end of every day.
Supporting Adrenal Health Postpartum
Your adrenal glands, two almond-shaped glands right above your kidneys, are part of what’s called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis, or HPA-axis. This axis is all about the communication between your environment, your brain, and your body. When this dance is disrupted, symptoms can arise. Many people call this “adrenal fatigue” or simply refer to it as hormone imbalance, but it’s really a disruption in that HPA-axis, i.e. the hypothalamus, pituitary, or adrenals, and/or communication between the three. Stress in our environment or on our bodies (deadlines! baby crying! dinner’s not ready and it’s 8pm! a 10-mile run! not sleeping!) triggers our brain to release a hormone that communicates to the pituitary gland, which signals the adrenals to secrete cortisol (along with epinephrine and norepinephrine, both excitatory neurotransmitters). This response is just fine under normal circumstance, but when there are prolonged periods of stress or a super stressful event (read: childbirth), there can be a disruption in hormones that presents itself in many different ways. For new moms, this generally presents itself as the inability to handle normal day-to-day stressors. Cravings, addiction to stimulants, exhaustion, feelings of agitation or anxiety over the tiniest things, all of these things signal possible adrenal dysfunction. Other symptoms include:
- Acne or rashes
- Difficulty waking
- Increased illness
- Low libido
- Brain fog
You can evaluate your adrenal function with a simple test and I suggest you find a practitioner you trust to help you along this journey (let’s face it, you have a lot on your plate!). We can also easily support healthy adrenal function naturally and at home. As hormones regulate, sex hormones return and our immune system strengthen, we’re way more equipped for those inevitable hiccups in daily life. That cool, calm, collected mama you pictured yourself being? Yeah, that’s you! Now, let’s help get those hormones back online.
Supporting the Adrenals After Childbirth
Cuddle Your Baby: Breastfeeding and cuddling your newborn stimulates oxytocin, a hormone that protects your body from the ravages of stress.
Eat Regular Meals: You need fuel. Whether you’re breastfeeding or not, eating regular meals with ample protein ensure even, steady blood sugar levels, which means you’re ready for whatever life throws your way.
Sleep: I know, I know, easier said than done. But hear me out. Long-term lack of sleep can have a huge impact on your body’s ability to heal, your mood, even your ability to bond with your baby, so please don’t feel guilty about napping when the baby does or passing off chores to family members.
Breathe: Breathe deeply and often, especially when you’ve just about “had it!” Breathing deeply brings our bodies back to that parasympathetic or “rest and digest” mode in mere minutes – faster than medication and with zero negative side effects.
Rhodiola Rosea: 30-60 drops of tincture 2-3 times daily. Rhodiola improves energy, lowers anxiety, reduces inflammation, and supports your immune system. This, along with other adaptogens is often recommended for those with adrenal dysfunction. Should not be taken without supervision if you have a history of depression.
Magnesium Glycinate: 150-300 mg nightly. Magnesium supports adrenal gland function and many in the U.S. are deficient. You can also find magnesium naturally in dark green vegetables, almonds, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, seeds, legumes, millet, brown rice, avocado, and dried apricots.
But first and foremost, be gentle with yourself. You’re an amazing woman doing all you can for your family. Take a moment to honor yourself, because that’s the first step of radical self-care! If you’re a mama or mom-to-be, check out this amazing (and first of its kind!) bundle curated by yours truly JUST for moms. When I put the word out to some of the top experts in health and wellness that I wanted to put together a gift for mothers, the response was overwhelming!
Dr. Jolene Brighten, is a mother, integrative women’s health expert, postpartum advocate and bestselling author of the book, Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth: The New Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Fourth Trimester. She’s most recently the creator behind the Mom’s Wellness Bundle. Always a strong advocate for mothers, Dr. Brighten dug deeper into her cause after suffering from her own health issues following the birth of her son. She’s an expert in fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum care with a special emphasis in thyroid disease.