Being pregnant completely alters a woman’s hormone levels. As hormones rise to 20 to 30 times their normal levels, they can cause some nasty side effects, as evidenced by Kate Middleton’s much publicized hospitalization for extreme morning sickness. However, the sudden drop in hormone levels after giving birth can have some equally nasty side effects.
It’s completely normal to feel tearful, anxious, and tired after giving birth. The dramatic drops in estrogen and progesterone postpartum can leave many women feeling depressed, irritable and moody, similar to PMS. The “Baby Blues” occurs in 75-80 percent of women, starting two to three days after giving birth and peaking around seven to ten days postpartum. Normally, these feelings will subside as hormone levels stabilize, but 10-20 percent of woman will experience more intense long-lasting side effects that can threaten their health.
For these women, postpartum depression, or PPD, usually sets in four to eight weeks post delivery, but it can occur anytime up to a year after giving birth. It’s most common in first-time mothers or those who tend to have severe PMS. Symptoms include frequent bouts of crying, sleeplessness, agitation, anxiety, anger, fear, unexplained sadness or suicidal thoughts. In these cases, it’s essential to receive professional medical care, as untreated PPD can have significant impact on both the mother and the baby.
Thyroid levels can also drop dramatically after giving birth, and it’s estimated that 10 percent of women will go on to develop thyroid issues. Postpartum thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder caused by antibodies and the gland first becomes inflamed after a woman gives birth. Woman will usually become hyperthyroid first, feeling anxious, nervous, or breathless and unable to sleep, and then move on to hypothyroid three to six months postpartum. Low thyroid symptoms also mimic depression, so women experiencing these types of symptoms in the months after giving birth should definitely see their doctors.