Why pregnant women are moody
& why postpartum women are depressed.
Short answer: Hormones 🤩✨
Growing humans inside one’s tummy damages one’s body + mind
To get some perspective, let’s have some moms tell us how they felt about their postpartum body (postpartum = after giving birth👶)
“My skin feels different now. Almost unrecognizable. Like I’m stuck in someone else’s body. Someone whose body is out of control.”
“Mood swings. Loose skin. Hot, then cold, no hot. Very, very hot. Stretch marks. Whose body am I wearing? Why are they so hormonal? And where is my fruity cocktail???”
“I see all those confident moms proud of their “stripes” and of how they look postpartum, but I feel embarrassed. So shy and unsure of myself in the body I was left with.”
“I had my son two years ago and I am really depressed about how my body looks now. My stomach and breasts are completely ruined. When I take off my clothes I feel like I’m disgusting and I can’t look at myself”.
Wow. Something we view as one of the greatest gifts of life is causing mothers, worldwide to feel depressed, unbeautiful and unloveable.
First, let’s understand what happens to the body physically, then we’ll dive into the mental side of things (depression, anxiety, etc).
Physical Body changes for Post Partum Women
- Women gain 25–35 pounds
- They have no bladder control (weak muscles)
- Women excrete blood clots the size of GOLF BALLS
When a woman’s body is preparing to nurture a human, there’s tons of blood + hormones. After that baby has left the body, mommy needs to get rid of the blood (hence golf balls), and the hormones.
Postpartum vaginal bleeding is reported as heavier, and more painful than regular menstruation. It goes from 4–6 weeks straight.
2 in 3 women also experience Diastasis Recti; when your ab muscles split apart. It’s often overlooked and misdiagnosed. Physical therapy is needed by almost all mothers, however, most health plans don’t cover it. WTH?? Women are birthing children and ripping apart their abdominal muscles, the least they deserve is some therapy. Holy crap.
I always thought that once you gave birth & suffered through the painful contractions, it was all over. Well, clearly I was wrong. Tons of awful stuff happens after birth like your abdomen breaking, constant bleeding, and sadness.
But I thought at least the contractions would be gonzo. I was wrong again.
Contractions happen DURING and AFTER birth. Remember our best friend the uterus? Well, it’s constantly causing pain, and postpartum contractions are no exception. As the uterus shrinks in size(because there is no baby inside of you), the uterus is working hard and wants to inform your whole freaking body that it is shrinking.
After carrying an 8-lb baby for 9 months, your bladder and pelvic area are very weak. Women complain that they go to the bathroom 12 times an hour, that sexual intercourse hurts and their breasts become incredibly undecisive of how large they want to be.
Loss of bladder control, weak bones and muscles can all be thanked because of the hormone relaxin. During pregnancy, it is produced in abundance because the ligaments need to loosen up in order to support the baby. After the baby is out, your body becomes weak.
Speaking of RELAXation… you won’t be doing that anytime soon. It will hurt to sit, stand and lay down.
Around 10 M women get post-partum hemorrhoids, which are painful veins near the colon.
Viens will actually be popping everywhere. Women tend to get varicose veins on their legs especially due to the pressure of carrying the baby.
If a mother had a vaginal delivery, there will be tearing. Either naturally or the doctor will pre-tear you (how kind!). Either way, you’ll be stitched up, and pain will be so regular you’ll forget what it’s like to not be Frankenstein.
If mom had a C-section, she doesn’t luck out. Maybe she’s had no vaginal tearing but she will still bleed golf balls and experience all the weakening of muscles. she’ll also be dealing with incision pain from the surgery and ll get to go on a fun hormonal rollercoaster… along with all the other mommies.
On top of all this, there’s twisted and rotated uteruses, back pain, stretch marks and more.
Advil won’t help with this headache…
The Hormonal Rollercoaster
There’s a mental side of things.
In order for your body to prep for birth, it’s going to fill with hormones.
Estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones) are the main pregnancy hormones. During one pregnancy, a woman will produce more estrogen than all of the estrogens she has produced in her life combined.
During pregnancy, increases in sex hormones alter your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that decipher your moods). (More on this down below)
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is called the “pregnancy hormone” because women only produce it during pregnancy, and fun fact, this is the hormone that pregnancy tests look for in the urine. It helps create the placenta (the little home for your baby!), but it causes morning sickness or nausea/vomiting 🤮
During the first trimester of pregnancy, women often feel incredibly sick because they have an increased amount of hCG.
Prolactin is yet another one of our hormonal buddies that increase during pregnancy: it’s in charge of creating breast milk 🍼
There’s more hormones:
Human Placental Lactogen (hPL) = manages metabolism and chooses what energy (gathered from your food) to feed your baby. It’s also in charge of increasing insulin resistance which leaves more sugar for your baby. [Low levels could mean miscarriage/placental insufficiency, high levels could be a sign of diabetes and other insulin resistance diseases]
Placental growth factor = Increases blood vessels in placenta to nourish baby with nutrients
Inhibin = regulates the release of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
FSH = ensures proper function of ovaries
Oxytocin = All of your contraction pains can be thanked because of this guy. It opens up your cervix and it’s basically the baby saying “read set go!!!!”
Relaxin = relaxes your muscles
Luteinizing hormone (LH) = triggers the growth of the corpus luteum which is a structure that secretes more hormones. Aka exponential hormone production 🚀.
Here’s a simplified hormone graph for pregnant women… it’s 10x more complex.
These hormonal changes are crucial to growing a baby inside of you. However, if your hormones are feeling whacky/out of balance, you and your baby could be in some serious trouble. Hormones change super duper fast, studies have even linked these changes with miscarriage and prematurity.
These hormones are in charge of developing the placenta (aka bed for the fetus), so the imbalance can impact the placental structure, therefore the development of the child.
Unfortunately, we don’t keep track of hormone levels as often as we should. We could probably avoid miscarriage, prematurity, improper development and a whole whack of problems if we just took closer care of pregnant women.
Why hormones suck. The mental side of being pregnant
Postpartum depression(PPD). Symptoms are extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns. And it’s caused by childbirth.
Well, shoot. I thought giving birth was supposed to be the happiest day of a mother’s life. I feel like I’ve been lied to. What’s next? Santa isn’t real? Easter bunny doesn’t exist?
… PPD is caused from… you guessed it: hormones. Specifically, the way they drop after birth.
Your body needs to get rid of the shiz you don’t need when you’re not pregnant. The same way pregnant women bleed golf-ball-blood clots to get rid of buckets of extra blood, they get rid of their extra hormones… super fast.
During pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen are several hundred times larger than normal. After birth, and placental withdrawal, progesterone is removed. Estrogen levels also plummet.
Ovarian hormones affect neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
BDNF plays a key role in neuronal survival, promoting neuronal regeneration following injury and regulating neurotransmitter system. (This is the system to communicate with your brain/emotions)
Having too much or too little BDNFs, and neurotransmitters severely impact the structure of neurons. If we change the structure, we affect the functionality. Studies have found that estrogen and progesterone impact the structure of brain parts like the hippocampus.
This change in hormones impacts your neurotransmitters’ function. Neurotransmitters are exactly what they sound like; transmit neurological signals to the brain. Hormone changes(therefore neurotransmitter functionings) have been paralleled with depression:
Neurotransmitters work with a presynaptic transmitter and a post-synaptic transmitter. Synaptic transmission is when these neurons talk to each other.
Glutamate is the “signal” transmitted.
Let’s say your best friend called you and told you she was pregnant. She is the presynaptic neuron, you are the postsynaptic neuron. The synaptic transmission or glutamate is your friend telling you the news.
When hormones are added to the mix, this communication could become messy.
Maybe the phone line was really bad, and you heard that your friend say she ordered pizza, not that she was pregnant. So you’re not excited by the news. Your friend is confused because she thought you’d be super happy for her. This confuzzle is what hormones do to your neurons; they play a game of broken telephone.
This affects the neurochemical systems involved in healthy emotional and cognitive control, such as dopaminergic(signal-sending), serotonergic(nerve endings), glutamatergic (neurotransmission)and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic systems (respond to signals). The chemical correlation between these systems is called monoaminergic.
Following birth, estrogen decreases 100–1000 fold times. PET scans have shown an increase in MAO-A, which is an enzyme that metabolizes monoamines, such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. An increase in MAO-A links to the recurrence of major depressive disorders.
Basically, the link between PPD and other depressive disorders is a number of monoaminergic factors: if we can control the amount of, say, MAO-A in the brain, we can decrease the intensity of PPD.
Maybe I’m making you feel like this:
But, now you know that PPD and mood swings are caused due to the jumble of your neurons which screws the chemicals, receptors and nerve endings. Thanks, estrogen, and progesterone 😤🙄.
- Women go through an abundance of physical body changes, most of these are caused by hormones preparing for pregnancy, or the physical stress on the body of carrying a human.
- Hormones are super delicate: too little or too much can be life or death for both mom and her baby. Understanding your hormones, and monitoring them can avoid prematurity, miscarriage and improper fetal development.
- DURING and AFTER pregnancy, hormones irritate your neurotransmitters, which cause mood changes and lead to things like baby blues and postpartum depression.
This where Ammorra comes in.
Ammorra is looking to empower reproduction — actually reproduce reproduction in a few ways:
- Monitoring reproductive health in a variety of ways, one example is monitoring hormone levels in pregnant women and looking for abnormalities, to ensure the healthy development of the fetus, and ensure they’re personally healthy.
- Our long-term goal is to remove the need for natural fetal development processes with our re-invented wombs.
- AND give everyone, no matter their age, sexuality, fertility, health, etc. the ability to reproduce with our advanced sperm and egg technologies.