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postnatal crash
First Years Pregnancy Oct 29, 2020
5 Minutes

The day 3 postnatal crash?! what to expect…

Pregnancy and birth has of course a HUGE impact on our hormones. Doesn’t take a genius to work that one out. As a consequence, during pregnancy and immediately post, it is very normal to experience some emotional ‘ups and downs’. Also known as the postnatal crash. Sometimes understanding what’s going on in your body is a powerful way to feel slightly less ‘unhinged’ during this time!

In this short piece we will tell you what happens to your hormones and why we often get a bit of a short sharp crash in emotions following birth. Often awareness and understanding is half the battle! Ultimately? If you feel an immediate whirlwind of emotions (good and bad) know that it is actually totally understandable and actually a very normal biological reaction… 

Estrogen and Progesterone sky rocket during pregnancy: 

Both of these steroid hormones (and others) rise dramatically during pregnancy. In fact, estrogen (and its most potent form Estradiol) rises as much as 1,000x the normal baseline level by the end of pregnancy (9). This then drops dramatically post delivery of the baby and the placenta. Which is the organ largely responsible for producing it.  

To give you an idea of the magnitude of what we’re dealing with:

‘During pregnancy, estradiol (one form of estrogen) is 50x higher and progesterone is 10x higher than normal by the third trimester’. (11)

No wonder you’re left feeling a bit discombobulated when the placenta goes and production suddenly stops. 

Other hormonal and physiological changes that can contribute to a postnatal crash: 

Obviously aside from the physical changes (which we can see) a whole host of changes go on internally. Changes in how our bodies produce and react to insulin, significant rise in blood volume (by as much as 30% in the end). Plus the production of hormones like Relaxin which causes relaxation of the pelvic ligaments amongst many others. 

Including those that have a very real impact on mood… 

The other hormones that fluctuate A LOT during the process of pregnancy and birth are known as Neurosteriods. Specifically as they have direct impact on the brain and mood. One notable is Allopregnanolone which is actually a metabolite of progesterone. It has been linked to mood disorders. 

As progesterone levels change dramatically through pregnancy and after childbirth, so does allopregnanolone. (13)

Interestingly this hormone also rises towards the onset of your period… 

Inflammation also dramatically fluctuates and has been increasingly linked to our moods and have been associated with postnatal crash: 

Initially during pregnancy there is suppression of inflammation in the body and a shift to a more anti-inflammatory immune state. (12). This similarly abruptly shifts as the body prepares for labour and goes through delivery. Remember, inflammation is the body’s natural healing response. We only usually experience ‘issues’ however when there is a dramatic or persistent shift. 

Interestingly however, recent research has gathered more and more evidence that this shift in inflammation can contribute to our emotional health. In fact, it has been closely linked to why some women get postnatal depression and anxiety and others do not. Click here for much more. 

After the rise comes the fall… 

The placenta plays a huge role from mid pregnancy onwards in the rapid rise of these hormones. Click here for more. After birth with no placenta of course these levels drop dramatically. This typically happens on average over approximately a five day period post birth. (9). 

Some women will potentially feel the postnatal crash more than others: 

Everyone will experience this hormone crash. However, some women may feel the impact of it more acutely than others. It can be one of the main reasons why some women feel a big blast of baby blues and intense emotion in the days following birth:

‘in animal models it is well established that withdrawal of estradiol induces depression-like behaviours.’ (9) 

Research backs up that some women are more vulnerable to these steroid transitions than others. (13). Everyone is of course different. 

The extent and duration of your emotional postnatal crash are key:

As above, as your body adjusts to the major hormonal shifts and physical reality of giving birth it is normal to feel some big emotional shifts. However, if these persist or are extreme then this is the time to ask for help.  Postnatal depression and anxiety are unfortunately quite common and are often undiagnosed. Speaking up and getting the help and support you need is the first port of call. It is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your baby. Click here to read more about the signs and what you can do to support your body and mind. 

Supporting your body and mind: 

Sometimes forewarned is forearmed! Whilst making a birth plan is an important part of many women’s process, making a post birth plan should be equally important. Thinking of ways you can support your postnatal body for recovery (click here for more) as well as getting your support network lined up is crucial. That can be anything from enlisting (and accepting) help from family, to a maternity nurse, to a neighbour bringing food, to just stocking up your freezer with healthy treats. It is all important and can all be helpful. Sometimes it is the little things! 

Remember: you’re not alone: the postnatal crash is actually ’normal’!

Having a baby is a wonderful, life changing event. However, it is not always smooth sailing. Just know that physiologically the changes you experience post birth are the same that every new mother will experience. So, you’re not alone. It is also very understandable to feel both elated at having your new person but also very deflated and sad at the same time. So loose any guilt. Most crucially don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re going through a lot! 


This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.






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