Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The post on "The Motherhood Penalty" raised questions about hormones in mothers and fathers. I started thinking about the hormones released after pregnancy, especially in a breastfeeding mother such as myself. I feel like I'm a different person after Felicity's birth five months ago. Why? And will I return to my formerly fabulous self, or is this new, kind of high-strung, super-sensitive 'me' here to stay?

It seems that the moms in my support group (who also mother infants) are a bit confused as well. We're told we have all of these hormones floating around, and that they cause any number of symptoms, but we seem to be reading different materials and hear different things. You heard breastfeeding made you lose weight faster? My doctor said that I'll hold on to an additional 10 pounds until I wean... etc.

I have to say, after spending a forty-five googling, I'm having difficulty finding any useful information that discusses the hormones present and what they do to the body.

Does anyone else feel uncomfortable just looking at this cow?

Kelly Mom (great website, by the by) cites scientific studies to show how prolactin peaks in a woman when she is full-term, then gradually declines after pregnancy. Prolactin is the hormone that tells a women's body to produce milk. Wikipedia (great scholarly resources, right everyone, right?) says that high estrogen and progesterone levels keep the body from lactating during pregnancy, and the sharp drops in these hormones after birth allows the body to go ahead and make milk. I hate even talking about what Wikipedia says, but I'm honestly having a hard time finding any good data that is informed by cited scientific backing.

But the internet is full of lots of uncited, where-the-hell-did-this-come-from information about the "hormones" that women produce following pregnancy. And according to the all-wise internet, these hormones do the following to a person:
  • make you moody
  • make you angry
  • make you weepy (I would like to see a scientific study on weepiness, wouldn't you?)
  • make you anxious
  • make you an insomniac
  • make you depressed
  • make you hold on to weight
  • make you have night sweats
  • make you have hot flashes
  • make you angry at your partner
  • make you angry at your baby
It feels really unfeminist and somewhat dishonest to blame behavior on hormones, but sometimes I seriously feel like a crazy person. And, speaking as someone with / recovering from postpartum depression, these emotions which I'm told are a product of the hormones raging in my post-pregnancy body, can be incredibly difficult to control.

Questions: What symptoms (both on and off the list above) did you experience during pregnancy and after childbirth? Did you find that you 'stabilized' back to your former self after a time?