Bringing a new life into the world is a miraculous experience and one that brings numerous changes to a mother’s body. Among these changes are fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, which can have a significant impact on a woman’s body.
While adjusting to this new phase of caring for and nourishing your new baby, you may experience some symptoms that are caused by low estrogen. In this article, we’ll discuss postpartum estrogen levels and how to increase estrogen naturally while breastfeeding to hopefully help you feel your best!
If this is a concern for you please talk with your Midwife or OBGYN to ensure that there is not a medical reason for your low estrogen symptoms.
- What are the signs of low estrogen levels postpartum?
- What causes low estrogen levels postpartum?
- How to increase estrogen naturally while breastfeeding?
Table of Contents
What Happens to Estrogen Levels Postpartum?
After giving birth, estrogen levels experience a significant drop. This drop is a normal part of the postpartum period and can lead to a range of physical and emotional changes. Breastfeeding also causes estrogen levels to decrease due to the hormonal interactions that occur in the body during the postpartum period such as prolactin dominance and ovulation suppression. Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining various bodily functions, from bone health to mood regulation. When estrogen is low, women will feel the effects of it in various parts of the body.
What Side Effects or Signs Do You Experience From Low Estrogen Levels Postpartum?
While recovering and adjusting after giving birth, it can be confusing to figure out whether your symptoms are just a normal part of the postpartum journey or if they are related to having low estrogen. The following symptoms are associated with low estrogen levels postpartum:
Estrogen plays a role in neurotransmitter regulation, so its decline can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and even feelings of depression. This emotional rollercoaster due to low estrogen can affect the overall mental health of a new mother and possibly lead to postpartum depression or anxiety. (Source)
Women may experience sudden feelings of warmth, often accompanied by sweating and rapid heartbeats. While commonly associated with menopause, postpartum hormonal fluctuations can also trigger these episodes.
Low estrogen can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse, affecting the intimacy and quality of a woman’s postpartum life.
Estrogen helps maintain bone density, so a decrease could potentially increase the risk of bone-related issues such as osteoporosis, which poses long-term health concerns.
Hair and Skin Changes
Some women might notice changes in hair texture and skin quality due to the altered hormonal landscape. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, postpartum hair shedding is a normal body process and is caused by falling estrogen levels.
What Causes Low Estrogen Levels Postpartum?
Several factors contribute to the drop in estrogen levels postpartum:
During pregnancy, high levels of estrogen are necessary to support the growing fetus. After childbirth, hormone levels must readjust as the body returns to its non-pregnant state.
Breastfeeding triggers the release of a hormone called prolactin, which can suppress estrogen production.
Stress and Sleep
The stress and sleep deprivation that often accompany new motherhood can impact hormone production and balance.
How Can I Test My Estrogen Levels?
If you suspect you have low estrogen levels, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. They can perform tests to measure your hormone levels accurately. Blood tests are commonly used to assess estrogen levels, typically taken in the early morning when hormone levels are stable. However, hormone levels can fluctuate, so it’s important to interpret the results in the context of your individual situation. (Source). This is why we recommend consulting with your OBGYN or midwife.
How Can I Naturally Increase Estrogen While Breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding may inhibit a rapid return to pre-pregnancy estrogen levels, there are natural ways to support estrogen production in the postpartum period.
Incorporate estrogen-boosting foods into your diet. Flaxseeds and sesame seeds are rich in lignans, compounds that can have estrogen-like effects. Soy products, lentils, and whole grains also contain phytoestrogens, plant compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, including a variety of these foods can support hormonal balance. (Source) It’s especially important to focus on nutrition while breastfeeding to ensure you and your baby are getting enough nutrients and calories. Check out this blog for nutritious snack ideas: 24 Healthy & Quick Postpartum Snacks for Breastfeeding and Recovery
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Include fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds for their omega-3 content, which can support hormonal balance. The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings of fatty fish per week. (Source)
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds derived from plants. These plant compounds can be found in various foods, including beans, berries, and nuts. Consuming phytoestrogens is a safe and natural way to increase estrogen while breastfeeding. (Source)
Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, affecting approximately 42% of the U.S. population, according to research published in the National Institutes of Health database (Source). Adequate vitamin D levels are linked to proper hormone regulation. Spending time in sunlight can stimulate the production of vitamin D so adding a short walk outside in the morning or evening sunlight to your daily routine can be beneficial for both you and your baby. If sun exposure is limited, consult a healthcare provider about vitamin D supplements.
Engaging in regular physical activity can help support hormonal balance and overall well-being. According to this study, aerobic and anaerobic exercise improves the level of circulating estrogen in a woman’s body. After giving birth, it can take a few weeks for your body to feel ready for physical activity. Start by adding short walks then increase the distance and intensity as you gain strength and endurance. There are many different exercise programs geared toward mothers that will help you get your body moving!
It can be challenging to prioritize self-care when caring for a new baby, especially if breastfeeding. Hormone levels are directly impacted by stress so by reducing stress, you will give your body a better environment for hormone production. Incorporate relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or a fun hobby to reduce stress levels. (Source)
Prioritizing sleep will aid in hormone regulation and overall recovery. It may seem impossible to prioritize sleep with a breastfeeding baby attached to you at all times but even going to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier every night will add up! If you and your baby are struggling with getting enough sleep, you may want to consider professional help from a sleep consultant. I recommend the Taking Cara Babies Sleep Training Course. Read here for my honest review of the course!
Consult a Professional
Always consult a healthcare provider before making significant dietary or lifestyle changes, especially while breastfeeding. A registered dietitian can provide personalized nutritional guidance based on your specific needs, and a naturopath doctor can help provide an in-depth analysis of your hormone levels. Finding the right provider to support your health goals is key!
The postpartum journey is full of joy and challenges. Your body is undergoing major changes and you may be thinking you’ll never feel normal again. By understanding the shifts in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, you will be able to navigate this postpartum phase with confidence and tools to support your body. While breastfeeding might influence estrogen levels, incorporating a well-rounded approach that includes proper nutrition, lifestyle choices, and self-care can help restore hormonal balance. Please consult with your Physician when addressing any possible hormonal imbalances.
Kayla is a mother of two young children. She is married to her high school sweetheart who is a firefighter, paramedic, and nurse. Her professional background is in social work, advocacy, and non-profits. She is passionate about empowering and encouraging mothers to make informed decisions about their pregnancy, birth, and motherhood journey.