I received my 4th module paper back today… yet another 10/10. Excuse me while I carefully maneuver my ego through the door here…
Explain postpartum hormonal fluctuations and how hormones impact women during their postpartum recovery. How does this impact their mental and/or emotional state after birth?
There are eight primary hormones that impact women during the postnatal period (listed according to their approximate appearance in the body over the course of pregnancy):
- Estrogen: In general, estrogen generates sexual desire. During pregnancy it regulates the progesterone in the body and stimulates Thyroid hormone (T3 & T4) binding globulin produced by the placenta (Levels decrease after placenta delivery). Estrogen is an ovarian hormone, and estradiol and estriol, biologically active forms of estrogen, are produced by the placenta and increase greatly during pregnancy. Estradiol enhances synthesis and reduced breakdown of serotonin. Estrogen and its forms decrease significantly after delivery. It is suggested that the biologically active forms of estrogen might be implicated in PPD.
- Thyroid: T3 & T4 primarily responsible for the regulation of metabolism. During pregnancy the T3 & T4 are bound by globulins creating a drop in levels of free T3 and T4. Thyroid function is stimulated by estrogen. It is suggested that women with symptoms of hypothyroidism (weight gain, cold intolerance, lethargy) might be candidates for PPD.
- Progesterone: Readies uterus for pregnancy and the breasts for breastfeeding. During pregnancy it maintains the functions of the placenta and protects the womb and the fetus. Further to that, it inhibits milk production until after the birth of the baby. Progesterone is produced in the placenta during pregnancy. Levels in the body sharply decline after placenta delivery allowing for the contractions to begin and the milk to come in.
- Oxytocin: Is dubbed the ‘love hormone’ and is responsible for orgasm, bonding and falling in love of the mother and baby promoting maternal behavior. Stimulates uterine muscle contraction at labor and promotes release of breast milk. Oxytocin is released when the cervix is stretched or when the nipples are stimulated and therefor rises sharply at delivery & with breast feeding.
- CRH: Stimulated by oxytocin and in turn stimulates the release of cortisol. Produced by the placenta during pregnancy and increases regular production by 3 fold in the pregnant woman (it is suggested that this level of production by the placenta disrupts the feedback loop that normally regulates CRH). Levels drop significantly after the birth of the placenta.
- Cortisol: Raises blood sugar levels and maintains normal blood pressure which helps us perform well under stress. Peak in late pregnancy as a result of CRH and fall abruptly after delivery. It is suggested that the dip in cortisol inhibits the mother’s ability to deal with stress easily.
- Prolactin: Allows for and regulates lactation. Increases significantly during pregnancy and then drops in three weeks after deliver in non-lactating women. In breastfeeding mothers , levels remain high for several months and eventually decline to pre-pregnancy levels. It seems that the lower the prolactin levels in the new mom, the more propensity she has toward PPD.
- Vasopressin: A pituitary hormone that regulates blood pressure and electrolyte balance and has been found lower in urine, but not plasma of postpartum women compared with nonpuerperal women. There is a suggested correlation between vasopressin levels and PPD.
In the review article entitled Hormonal Changes in the Postpartum and Implications for Postpartum Depression by Victoria Hendrick et al., the various studies that have been done surrounding hormones and their effect on postpartum depression show how incomplete the research has been on the subject. Though it seems logical that the immediate and simultaneous drop in cortisol (related to stress management), CRH, Progesterone and Estrogen (namely Estradiol, related to seretonin levels) would effect the new mothers ability to cope with life changes subsequent to birth, the results of the scientific research outlined in this paper do not provide clarity.
In my opinion, the combined hormonal shifts experienced postpartum would cause emotional repercussions that could lead to PPD. In particular, the disruptions in the Thyroid and CRH feedback loops result in the body re-establishing homeostasis postpartum. Similarly, the immediate drop in cortisol (causing a decrease in the ability deal with stress), estrogen (including estradiol), triggering an increase in the breakdown of serotonin are a lot to deal with at once. These hormonal shifts, in culmination with the fatigue, probable iron deficiency and life changes would definitely leave the new mother a candidate for baby blues, if not postpartum depression.
Describe how placenta capsules can be beneficial for women during this time. Be as specific as possible, while drawing on the research papers you have read.
With this in mind, it is possible that placenta capsules would benefit the new mother during the postpartum period of re-balancing her hormones and returning her endocrine system to homeostasis. Placenta “contains orally active substances which modify blood levels of pituitary and ovarian hormones” (Fertil) and I imagine that, if ingested, the active substances would combat the sudden decrease and provide for a gradual re-balancing of the hormones in the body instead of the immediate and simultaneous drop that occurs after the birth of the placenta. For example, hormones such as estrogen and progestrerone, CRH and cortisol are produced by the placenta during the pregnancy, and when the placenta is born, the mother experiences an extreme drop in their presence. Consuming placenta capsules during the postpartum period would make the drop in hormone levels less rapid and severe, thus prevent the circumstances which might promote the development of postpartum depression.
Now, onto my fifth and final module, placenta encapsulation & pain management! Stay tuned….