Post Pregnancy Hormones

May 16th, 2008

I’m nine months postpartum. One would assume I’d have all the kinks worked out by now. But I don’t. My mood still changes daily—sometimes drastically so. My weight still fluctuates a little too much and I still don’t have my hormone levels regulated. And up until last night I was still trying to convince myself that it might all be in my head. I wrote off the dizzy spells, the hair loss, the crying spells, the shortness of breath as “all in my head”.

Last night we were sitting around watching ER jump the shark for the billionth time. Emory had fallen asleep in my lap, his head against my chest. Tobyjoe sat to my right. We were still. My family sat still. Whenever the show ended, I got up and laid Emory down. That’s when I noticed a wet spot on my chest. I figured it was drool. (Emory has been drooling a lot lately due to teething. I hope.) I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. That’s when I realized that the wet spot was a perfect circle.

And I hate that I’m about to be graphic. As of late even I find myself turning away from posts holding too much information. But it appears that I’m 9 months late on the whole lactating thing. It appears my body has only now figured out that when baby is put to chest, chest makes milk.

I was told by the specialist that my thyroid levels would even themselves out by 6 months. Well, that hasn’t happened. At the time, I was admittedly frustrated by the way he seemed to write me off as some crazy postpartum girl, one who should just wait it out. And if I were a more organized and defiant woman, I might start a crusade in hopes of being taken seriously. Instead, I become bitter and resentful and it’s entirely my fault!

I am not one to ask a doctor for help. If it’s not a visible wound, like, if I’m not bleeding from the head, I don’t seek medical advice. (Gynecologist, aside. You just don’t ignore the lady stuff.) But this time? This time I knew something had to be wrong. I was entirely too emotionally unstable for it to be anything other than chemistry. And it was.

But the doctor didn’t really offer me much help. He gave me Atenolol to stop the flight or fight response and then told me to stop taking it once my levels began to change a bit. He then told me to come back in three months to get more blood work done. I haven’t done that. I haven’t done that in part because I am a coward. And I haven’t done that because my doctor wasn’t taking my pleas seriously.

On top of all of that, Em just will not nap anymore. He just cries and becomes more and more agitated and insane and every time it happens I feel that I’m more and more of a failure for not being able to figure out how to get him to nap. I’m also not strong enough to let him cry. I simply do not have what it takes to block out the sound of him crying. I go from feeling rage, to sorrow, to self-pity, to anger, to love all within the blink of an eye. It’s kind of like opening every single program and every font you have on your Apple computer while running OS 9.

I have great days. Most of my days lately have been great. Sadly, I don’t really write about those. But today? Today is a very, very bad day. I need help. I need to call a doctor. Something needs to change. I need someone to help me with my hormones, chemistry, all of it. I need to stop worrying that doctors won’t be taken seriously and instead demand they do so.

I’m nine months postpartum. Shouldn’t I be better at this by now?

One last thing, I wrote the first half of this post early this morning. I wrote the second half directly after giving Em a bath in hopes of getting him to nap.

Guess what? He’s still awake and losing it.

Things will be better tomorrow.

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34 Comments on “Post Pregnancy Hormones”

  1. Julie said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    My OB says that it takes about 2 years to feel back to normal. My son is 18 months old and my hair is still falling out. I have more of my hair on my clothes and than the dog hair. So, I can empathize. You sound a little blue, so I would definately get back at it and keep trying until someone listens to you!

  2. mj said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Arg – your frustrations come across loud and clear. Speaking as someone who works in the medical realm, you should go get yourself a second opinion on your thyroid issues. Go to the best endocrinologist in NYC, even if it means that you’re put on a wait-list and even if it means that you have to pay out-of-network fees. There is a solution out there, you just have to seek it out (and you’ll be happy when you do). See your PCP for a consultation about the emotional issues. Some people do well on SSRIs temporarily and don’t need them longterm, particularly postpartum. Help yourself feel better. Hire a babysitter for one day/week. Use that day to go to the library, take a class, or meet TJ for lunch. There’s a solution…I just know there is.

  3. mihow said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    2 years? My god. I’m going to need valium or something to make it through more days like this.

    Suddenly the Rolling Stones song “Mother’s little Helper” takes on new meaning.

    Only not really, because I’m not nearly that dramatic.

  4. heathercoo said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I’m so sorry to hear how frustrated you are. I’ve haven’t had any children yet but I understand frustrations with emotions and hormones. I wish I could come over and visit with you just so you could talk until there was nothing left making you upset.

    Not sure if this is going to weird you out or not but if you just want to vent feel free to email me. I’ve been told I’m a great listener.

    Hope your day gets better soon.

  5. Kathry Johnson said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I hear ya! My youngest son is 19 months, and I still (TMI)”leak” when I get out of the shower (and I wasn’t able to nurse since my son would throw up my milk, so I would think I’d be dried up by now)! I wonder how long it takes to return to “normal”…

  6. mihow said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    That makes me feel better. I thought I’d be dried up by now too especially since I never actually really had a lot of milk come in. I said to Tobyjoe last night, “Should I try and breastfeed him?”

    hahahhahahah

    Actually… maybe THAT will get him to fall asleep. It’s been almost 6.5 hours. Still no nap.

  7. Gillian said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Been a mom for exactly 3 weeks today. Have had less than 2 hours of sleep per night for exactly 3 weeks today. I clearly do not know the secret for getting a kid to fall asleep (clue – it’s not breastfeeding, because I do THAT like every hour and it still doesn’t please the dictator. Or make him sleepy.)

    Good luck, mama. And I second-third-fourth the comments that say to find you a doc that takes you seriously. A woman, perhaps, who has had children? And understands that we don’t MAKE THIS SHIT UP??

  8. Anca said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    As a last resort…have you tried carrying him in the bjorn or ergo to fall asleep? When I have hard time putting my 13 mos old down for a nap, I put him in the ergo on my back and run the vaccum or just walk around the house and it works really well. Good luck!

  9. Sarah said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I find taking deep breaths and counting to 10, often, helps.

    My daughter is 12. I still go through the emotional roller coaster you described, “I go from feeling rage, to sorrow, to self-pity, to anger, to love all within the blink of an eye. It’s kind of like opening every single program and every font you have on your computer while running OS 9.” Actually, I go through this while babysitting a 6th month old sometimes!

    I think that’s parenthood, sweetie. Or more specifically, MOTHERhood. For a lot of us, anyway. Sure, it comes in varying degrees, but when I realized that I wasn’t the only mom in the world to ever have violent (gasp!) thoughts about my child, it was a huge relief. Getting frustrated is normal!

    As for napping…babies pick up on our stress quickly, so as soon as you become agitated about him napping, he is not going to want to nap. He’s going to want to be agitated with you. And then it escalates. Have you swaddled? Swaddling is awesome…he’s getting a big big for that now, and if you’ve not done it before then forget it. Deep breaths. Calming tones. He’s going to survive if he doesn’t nap. You, on the other hand… ;-)

    Hang in there, honey. You are doing great.

  10. Kim said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Definitely find an endocrinologist for the thyroid, not just your regular doctor. What meds are you currently taking? You may need something different or in addition to what you are taking. Some GPs are good at the thyroid thing, but most are not. I have been having issues with my thyroid for about 8 years now, and I still have to go in for meds adjustments every so often.
    I ended up on an anti-depressant after my son was born and just came off it about 6 months ago. I was anxious all the time, could not sleep, felt like I was a failure as a mother, etc. It helped me so much. Your endocrinologist can prescribe these types of drugs for you as well, especially one that is compatible with your thyroid meds. I tried a few different ones but ended up on Wellbutrin as it does not have the side effects of some of the others (no weight gain or night sweats).

    The kid thing gets better. Hang in there. My son is 3.5 years now and that presents a whole new set of challanges, but they are at least not sleep realted ones anymore.

    I feel for you sister, (and that is the whole reason why my son will be an only child……)

    Seriously, see an endocrinologist. This is not something to put off.

  11. mihow said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Thanks, everyone. I am having a day. I’m hating on myself for not being able to sooth Emory. I am hating on myself for whining. I’m hating on myself for not getting help sooner. I’m just hating.

    But know that I’m also a pretty hopeful and happy person. I have moments of sheer joy and elation. Know that too.

    Thank you, all for your help, both here and via email. Again, your words really help.

    I will call my PCP as soon as we’re back from Amish country. He is awesome. I need a new endocrinologist, tho. He just wasn’t the right doc for me. If I have to wait months on end, so be it. I will. (I got him because of a last minute cancellation.)

    Thanks again.

  12. rachel said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    kim is right get a new endo and have your levels checked. Also, do not connect the dots for the dr. Just tell him your symptoms, the hair loss, weight, depression are all classic signs of hashimoto’s thyroiditis. it is super common among women post pregnancy. sometimes i think dr.s are lazy and start with the last thing you mention rather than do their due diligence.

    Kelly Greening kept checking my levels because my grandmom and sister had it. You could always call her for a good endo recommendation. good luck.

  13. Jezer said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I hate to sound discouraging, but it was right around my son’s 2nd birthday that I began to feel like myself again. In the meantime, the kid’s sleep issues started to level out, so I didn’t have QUITE so much on my plate.

    Maybe I should have seen an endo, myself…

  14. Becky said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Ouch…I feel for you hun. I lucked out on missing this whole hormonal thing (it’s nice when someone else carries your babies for you when it comes to stuff like this). I remember when Tyler went through major sleep disturbance when he was Emory’s age. Turned out (and it took me AGES to figure it out) it was a combo of teething and gas from the introduction of solids. They feel it more when they lie down, apparently.

    I got two homeopathic remedies for Ty…one for gas and one for teething. They worked pretty well. But in desperation, I would put Ty in the car and just drive. He always fell asleep when riding in the car. :-/

  15. CanadianMommy said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    My daughter is 5 months old and she just went through almost a month where she wouldn’t sleep longer than 1 hour at a time during the day and so by mid afternoon she was miserable from being so over-tired. I was looking up “remedies” for this online and I found white noise, which by the way is amazing for getting her to sleep. We live in an apartment and the people above us sound like they are doing perpetual demolition, and everyone but us on our floor owns a yippy, barky irritatingly loud dog, and they all seem to bark at the wind. All these things seemed to be interrupting her sleep, so I downloaded some white noise ( like ocean waves) and turned it up relatively loud in her room, and after a few days she was sleeping like an angel, and through the night. It blocks out everything else, and now she knows white noise means sleepy time, and I can put her down in her room and she will fall asleep on her own ( before she would lose it if I placed her in her crib, and I just can’t let her cry, I am not capable). I don’t know if this is going to be helpful at all, but white noise might work. It’s worth a download to see:) Also I know a woman who said she was still lactating 5 years after she was finished breast feeding

  16. Melissa said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Do not feel bad about feeling like this. Seriously. I think the person who said it is MOTHERhood has it right on target. Plus, you have been totally stressed about finding a place to live, and I remember what that was like. Five years ago, we decided to sell our house and move to a nicer neighborhood. Our house sold in 10 days, and we had not even started to look for a new house. I never thought it would sell that fast. Over the next six weeks before closing, I almost had a nervous breakdown thinking we’d be on the street. So I can imagine what you’re feeling. And babies, as wonderful as they are, are NOT easy. When I was about two years postpartum with my first, I saw a neurologist for migraines (after my pcp and ent’s thinking it was my sinuses). He put me on anti-depressants, and I know there is a stigma (Tom Cruise be damned!) but it was the best thing ever for me. Not only did my headaches drastically reduce, by my mood balanced too. I’m not ashamed to need them. Another friend took them for just a short time when she felt like she was losing her mind. Short or long-term, if it works … So see another doctor, or another, or another. I know it’s a pain, but when it clicks, it will be good again. Most days, anyway!!!

  17. Kate R. said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    M—I’ve been lurking a long time since I commented last. Since then I’ve gotten pregnant (19 weeks and I feel as big as a house) and I am enthralled by your Emory stories and pictures now more than ever. I don’t have anything wiser to offer than the other commenters, but I do just want to tell you that I appreciate what you share, even the shitty days. I hope you feel better sooner rather than later and that you give yourself a break from feeling all the “shoulds” that so many moms, I think, feel.

  18. Lissa said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I have an 11 month old son and can certainly relate to the horrors of sleep pattern changes. I came across a woman’s blog a few months ago that gave me some insight into what can mess with a baby’s sleep… http://moxie.blogs.com/askmoxie/2006/02/qa_what_are_sle.html Perhaps it can give you at least some some hope that it won’t last too long.

    I am also finishing my training to be a therapist, and intend to focus my practice on postpartum depression. It’s pathetic how few resources are out there for postpartum women, and how little useful information is given to us during our gazillion OB appointments. PPD can rear its ugly head a long time after giving birth and we too often blow it off, thinking we should be over it already. With everything you’ve got going on, throw in thyroid issues and you’ve got yourself one strong recipe for trouble (situation + chemistry + postpartum = OUCH).

    Glad to hear you’re going to see your PCP and then find a new endocrinologist… Remember the airplane safety analogy: you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child—you can’t take care of your child if you don’t take care of yourself first. You owe it to Emory, but more importantly yourself, to get some help. You are worth it and one day this time will be a small (albeit painful) footnote in your life.

    p.s. – I’m totally going nuts with my new Flip video too…

  19. Michelle said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    I would never have thought it, but sleep is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced with our little girl (almost 11 months). Days with naps are fun and, if not relaxed, at least pretty manageable. Days without naps (or in our case, with short naps)are survived by basically getting from one minute to the next. Things that work for us in getting her to nap: darkened room, low sleepy music (for a while she’d start rubbing her eyes when she heard the first few notes of the first song), me giving her a bottle while sitting in the rocking chair in her room. I usually keep my eyes closed like I’m sleeping too…that seems to help her know she won’t miss anything by sleeping for a bit. I am getting ready to try to remove the bottle out of that routine, and I am petrified. The other things seem to signal to her that it is naptime or bedtime, but the bottle actually makes her sleepy. I know these are all sleep associations, and they’ll be tough to break, but she finally sleeps, and that means I can eat something now and then.

    On the upside, in just the past few weeks she has gotten pretty snuggly, and will actually come sit by me and snuggle in. This is new, and pretty wonderful.

    I’ll bet Emory just loves to spend his day with you, and doesn’t want to miss out on any of that by napping. He is just the most adorable little boy.

  20. Michelle said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    And yes, things will be better tomorrow!

  21. Michele Chaves said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    the sleep difficulties are the worst. how come no books ever truly discuss how torturous the sleep issues can be? we did a lot of napping in the bjorn and at a certain point, the car became a sure fire napping spot. it is horribly un-environmental, but we took a lot of drives and it almost always worked to put the little one to sleep. do you have one of those wind-up swings? those are really good for lulling a baby to sleep as well. i found the motion and keeping stimulus down was good. we also used soft music, ocean or rain sound CDs, lavender oil in baths or lavender lotion, etc. to help trigger a sleepy routine and transition to quiet times.

  22. Michele Chaves said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    the sleep difficulties are the worst. how come no books ever truly discuss how torturous the sleep issues can be? we did a lot of napping in the bjorn and at a certain point, the car became a sure fire napping spot. it is horribly un-environmental, but we took a lot of drives and it almost always worked to put the little one to sleep. do you have one of those wind-up swings? those are really good for lulling a baby to sleep as well. i found the motion and keeping stimulus down was good. we also used soft music, ocean or rain sound CDs, lavender oil in baths or lavender lotion, etc. to help trigger a sleepy routine and transition to quiet times.

  23. michele Chaves said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    how did my comment show up twice?

  24. KidKate said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    So sorry to hear that you are going through this. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do the CIO—some babies just aren’t built for it and it can make things worse instead of better (from what I hear, anyway, a la Moxie =]). You know Em better than anybody so if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, well, then there’s probably a good reason for it. The only way I could do it was in 10-minute spurts while I sat next to the baby in her room and only then clearly because she was winding down, not up.

    Hang in there, get the help you need, and don’t beat yourself up!

  25. Chair said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    Is there’s a mom out there who can block out the sound of her child crying?! I don’t think so.

    The whole letting them cry thing isn’t about blocking out the crying, it’s hard hard hard hard to sit there, rocking and holding your head in your hands trying to not run in there to scoop them up and hug them. It sure was for me, anyway. But I’m glad I did it because with my post-colicky baby it was the only way she finally learned to put herself to sleep and put herself BACK to sleep. I’m about to do it with my little guy right away, too, I am so exhausted and just cannot deal with the lack of sleep any more.

    It’s making life harder for everyone around us and unfortunately we can’t afford for me to just be a Mom, I need to do some work and there’s no way I can do it unless I start to get some sleep.

    I still suggest the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy CHild book. Even if you don’t do the cry it out thing, the information is useful to help one understand what’s going on at different ages and what to expect. And why Crying It Out isn’t bad for them :)

    At any rate, I feel for you and I know how much the lack of sleep can really mess everything up. I suffer from migraines twice per hormonal cycle when I’m sleep deprived so it’s been a real barrel of monkeys around here lately. Good luck, hon.

  26. Kizz said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    This is totally off topic but hey, DISTRACTION, right? Distraction is a valid coping tool. :)

    I came across this link at My Open Wallet to a NYT article about families who are…I don’t know what to call it, downsizing? opting out? reducing distractions? and I thought you might like it.

    Here’s the direct link to the article, sorry I don’t know how to make it pretty and tiny:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/17/us/17texas.html?hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1210968228-eAVkS+YlrINqfe1VESPb6Q

  27. liz said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    i have some thyroid issues as well and pregnancy has only exacerbated them. while they were level all throughout pregnancy #1, i was a BASKET CASE about 6 months post-partum. i chalked the exhaustion, hair loss, etc… up to, you know, BEING A NEW MOM. but as i was getting pre-op blood work done prior to removing my shitty gall bladder, my PCP called and was all “um, you TSH is at 17.” SEVENTEEN!
    also, there’s a lot of new research out there that contradicts the old stand-by numbers of keeping TSH around 5.0. a lot of endocrinologist angle to keep levels no higher than 2.0 (speaking for myself, i feel well-managed at about 1.4). also, if your PCP or OB don’t seem terribly concerned, i’d find yourself a specialist in thyroid issues. totally worth the hassle in the short run.

  28. cher said at 6:40 am on May 16th, 2008:

    if you are not doing it already give him a watered down teaspoon of rice cereal- he’s probably just needing something more substantial in his belly.

  29. michelle said at 11:20 pm on March 29th, 2009:

    im so relieved to read this. im 9 mos postpartum now and have been vacillating between love and rage and self-pity and utter fear. im calling my doctor tomorrow to get a look at my thyroid and to figure something out. i thought it was all in my head and i have the world to be grateful for and i was just being a complainer. maybe that was the self-pity…anyway. THANK YOU.

  30. candycane said at 3:43 pm on August 21st, 2009:

    I have the same problem. My son is 10 months old and will not nap consistently. I have found that I have to control my emotions in order for him to settle down enough to sleep. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, and I worked with disaster aid! I have learned that my emotions are transparent to him. So when I switch channels to quickly its confusing for him. When I feel an attack coming on I set him down in his jumper, turn on the Wiggles, and drink some tea. It seems to help. I also try laying down and playing with him he loves it and it tuckers him out better. Understand that doctors are not as smart as they present themselves to be. The average time to diagnose a thyroid condition is 10 years. Plus it is a largely misunderstood and under diagnosed condition. Most GP docs will shove an antidepressant your way faster then researching the source. That is if your lucky enough to speak with a real doctor instead of a P.A. Antidepressant medication doesn’t work for me, it made me feel plastic. I can’t be like that around my son.

  31. Julie said at 7:35 pm on September 11th, 2009:

    You may want to try topical progesterone cream. I am nearly 50 and I just discovered the work of Dr. Lee. It is all over the net so just google him. I use progesterone cream on my arms to help me with menopause and the ups and downs of the hormones. When I read Dr. Lee’s book it also talked about post partum and how it can help with that too. I wish I had known then because I had terrible depression post partum and needed all the help I could get. And it got worse with each child and I had 3. Has anyone out there tried it for post partum?

  32. Everett said at 8:59 am on December 18th, 2009:

    My wife has gone through problems with breastfeeding also. Her milk didn’t come in for a while and we had no idea if our son was getting anything! Unfortunately he wasn’t. We had to supplement with formula. 4 weeks into her milk actually being produced and being fed to our son we find out that her milk has been giving our son reflux and upsetting his stomach!

    A lot of this sucks and her hormone levels have been all over the place. No one ever tells you these things when your trying to get pregnant! and this is our first child, but he was the third pregnancy. Again, it sucks and no one ever tells you this stuff until afterward.

    Two weeks after our son was born I had to go back to work, I didn’t want to, but I had to. My wife stays at home and I take the “night shift” when I get home from work to give her some rest. So she is home alone with him during the day. And I do what I can when I’m home.

    I also travel A LOT for my job so she would have had to stop “pumping” when I started traveling again anyways. Hopefully now she’ll actually be able to get some sleep; since she won’t have to feed him then pump only to have to wake-up after 2 – 3 hours to start all over again. Oh and I forgot to mention that our son is a “tongue sucker” and never fed properly from her breast.

    OK, now I’m “cry-sacking.” Long story to short. I may be Male but I understand what is going on and how much, for lack of a better term, it sucks! I hope that things have gotten better for you since this article was posted back in May 2008. And we’re navigating this “storm” called life one day at a time also.

    Take care,
    Everett
    Rochester, NY

  33. crisitna said at 11:21 am on March 30th, 2010:

    How have you been since this post? I’m in that same boat and noone worded it so perfect like you did. Could you contact me please. Tell me how you are and what you did. I’m needing some guidance :) martinez3121@yahoo.com.

  34. fiona said at 9:53 pm on March 2nd, 2013:

    I hear what you all are saying…I feel those things as well but seriously ladies, it’s called adjusting to motherhood. Find ways to cope, know that it’s temporary and be patient. All of the complaining…you guys did nothing but scare me….mostly for your children. Stop putting pressure on yourseleves. It took 9 months to deliver the child. You won’t be back to yourself right away. There are so many changes way out of our control. So, just go with it. None of this is magic. Learn to descolate the anxiety and take care of yourself. Your self care goes beyond you…


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