10

votes

Hormonal effects of weaning

Answered on May 30, 2017
Created September 08, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Can anyone direct me to some references about the hormonal changes that accompany weaning? Baby and I have recently stopped breastfeeding (it was rather abrupt, and it's been several weeks now), and I've been feeling some emotional instability, and have gained several pounds. I gather this is normal and it should sort itself out, but I'm curious about the process.

Many sources online attribute post-lactation weight gain to continuing to eat as though feeding an extra person -- as if my body wouldn't notice that more fuel was available and forget to modify my hunger! More likely there are hormonal changes behind it. But other than a reduction in prolactin (which should in theory promote weight loss), I've not found much about the specific hormonal effects. Lowered oxytocin could be part of it, but I'm wondering about estrogen and progesterone, and can't find the kind of resources I'm looking for.

3959828c57f2aeddc08e5f374e92ad36

(87)

on April 24, 2013
at 09:46 PM

I had similar symptoms and a detox and regulating my hormones helped. For both I used herbal supplements- DIM, Calcium D Glucarate, milk thistle, vitex and burdock root.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on October 04, 2012
at 11:16 PM

Hi, isobel808. I didn't ever get strong answers on this one. My own weight stabilized again, although I think I still weigh about 5 pounds more than I did before weaning. I didn't write the numbers down, so I'm not 100% sure. I'm sorry you are dealing with that gain. I know how hard it can be to adjust to going up a size.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 11:04 PM

Exactly. I think Quilt may have offered some suggestions at one point. But seeing as you are probably enjoying your nipple vacation. we'll skip those. :)

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:35 PM

Hmm. That's also an interesting idea. So to counteract this, I should do lots of oxytocin-producing activities? ;-)

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 07:56 PM

antagonist of vasopressin.[22] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 07:56 PM

My other thought is about the abrupt drop in oxytocin. As you know oxytocin is a feel good hormone that counters cortisol. My unfounded idea is that the sudden drop in oxy. may cause a temporary overcorrection in cortisol production. Thus creating a temporarily high cortisol scenario. I sure felt like I had high cortisol, stress intolerance, water retention, poor sleep - "Modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. Oxytocin, under certain circumstances, indirectly inhibits release of adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol and, in those situations, may be considered and...

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:22 PM

I don't know where I got the figure to calculate the ratio at that time. Very soon after that, my cycle resumed, and I felt a lot better. I guess I should go get retested and see where I am with that. Another thing I could look into is thyroid, which was normal (up from previously being slightly hypo -- I think my diet had corrected that) but it could be off again. Maybe my current low has nothing to do with weaning.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

"postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04"

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04"

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:18 PM

"nice to know *how* low it should go. My results would otherwise indicate postmenopause, and I don't expect to be quite there yet. So, if my fatigue, lack of concentration, poor sleep, and low libido are basically side-effects of nursing, then I guess there isn't much to do but put up with it, though maybe I can take some supplements that will help levels be as high as my body will permit at present -- i.e., herbs that are reputed to help balance hormones without directly raising anything. The situation with progesterone is similar, except it is in range for follicular or periovulatory or

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:18 PM

In fact, I'll follow your example and post a journal entry: "estradiol 17.77 pg/mL The reference ranges for this vary depending on where you are in your cycle: follicular 26.6 - 161.0 preovulatory peak 187.0-382.0 luteal 32.7-201.0 postmenopausal 5.37-38.40 I find it really odd that there isn't a reference range for breastfeeding. If anyone can find one I'd love to see it. I'm pretty sure it is normal for estrogen to be lower at this time; estrogen interferes with prolactin, and I think the normal lack of menstrual cycle at this time is a reflection of low estrogen. Still, it would be

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:13 PM

Just before my cycle kicked in, I had started feeling crappy. My main hypothesis was estrogen dominance, and I got those both measured. Here were my results:

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:20 AM

Yes, you are probably not deficient at that dose. The thing about estrogen, from what I understand, is that it is not the total amount you have, but the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. So, you could have pretty low estrogen, but if your progesterone is in the dumper then you could still have symptoms of estrogen dominance. If your cycle resumed and you felt better, that could be that your progesterone started kicking back in. John Lee MD has quite a bit of stuff out there on "estrogen dominance." When I was going through this there I found very little out there about this post weaning stuf

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:16 AM

Your answer brings up another question that was touched on by Lisa, too: to what extent are estrogen and progesterone normalized when the menstrual cycle returns, but before weaning? I can't seem to find definitive answers about either of those aspects, only that nursing lowers estrogen, which is part of what keeps menstruation from occurring, which implies that the return of menstruation is a sign of rising estrogen.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:12 AM

Wow. That's fascinating. Thank you for sharing it! Estrogen is funny. I think that before I got my cycle back early this year my estrogen was too low. I started feeling a lot better after it resumed, and I chalked it up to that. But I know that too high is not good either. About the zinc, I've been taking 50mg of zinc citrate for several months now, so I'd be surprised if I were deficient.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:24 AM

One possible confounder is that I was exercising more for a couple of weeks prior to weaning, and then returned to more moderate activity levels. But I don't think it's just that, because I've also noticed changes in my appetite (I'm hungrier), and I'm just a little more apt to feel emotional about whatever. I don't know. Life has so many factors, it's hard to tease out causes.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:18 AM

I certainly have a lot of stressors in my life right now, but I don't think that has changed particularly, and I don't think there was anything acute. So I doubt it's a cortisol problem. I have had normal periods now for a few months, so that wasn't a change either. Just before weaning I had reached and held for a week a new weight low after a long plateau. The new low was about 5 lbs above my goal (I guess -- it's so hard to estimate). Now I'm back up a little above where I was sitting for months before that, which is about 8 lbs higher than the low.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:11 AM

Thanks for your thoughts! The stopping was upsetting to me, because it wasn't my plan to stop yet, but not in a really traumatic way. Nothing bad happened, it was just that we spent some time apart and when we got back together he had lost interest. I decided it wasn't worth re-establishing nursing because my plan had been to wean in about 4 months time, and if I just let it go now it would be less of an ordeal. So I had a cry and then got over it. (cont')

2d090e680d86e2c768edb40b4b433978

(384)

on September 08, 2011
at 10:36 PM

I'd love to know, too. My three year old has pretty much (and finally) weaned.

C4134ed417dbc0a6b79ab2cee32632d3

(1801)

on September 08, 2011
at 09:28 PM

I don't know the answer, but tweeted to someone who should be able to point you in the right direction.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on September 08, 2011
at 08:15 PM

This is a great question!

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7 Answers

3
0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 03:14 AM

I breastfed to kids. One for an extended period and a gradual weaning. The other for 17 months and an abrupt weaning - he broke up with me.

The second time I felt as if I was going through a delayed onset postpartum depression. I used to keep a blog and this is what I wrote about this there:

Post Breastfeeding Depression and Zinc 17 months after birthing my 2nd baby I decided to unceremoniously cut him off the boob.

Even though I breastfed my first son for over 2 years, I just couldn't go on any longer with boy #2.

First I swelled up like a balloon. Then I noticed a distinct fattening of my rear end. Finally I got really cranky - like full on b**. I was pretty miserable. (So was my poor, dear husband).

Thanks to Dr. Google I got schooled pretty quick about the horrors of estrogen dominance and the wonders of zinc. (This is by no means an exhaustive list). Zinc produces an acute drop in cortisol http://www.springerlink.com/content/x4mxl42332033802/ Zinc deficiency can be related to depression. http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2010/07/zinc-and-depression.html Zinc aids in boosting the immune system and decreasing inflammation http://www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/18/2/152 Zinc deficiency can lead to estrogen dominance and low progesterone. http://www.ehow.com/how_5531687_increase-zinc-estrogen-dominance.html Since estrogen and progesterone are kept low throughout breastfeeding, it would seem that abrupt weaning would cause quite a hormonal tumult. I went from nice even breastfeeding moods to grumpy hormonal mess overnight. Also, pregnancy and breastfeeding takes a toll on zinc levels.

So I deduced the following:

My zinc levels were in the dumps from pregnancy and a year of rigorous nursing. But, because my estrogen and progesterone were kept low I didn't get any real hormonal symptoms until weaning. Once I stopped nursing my estrogen probably kicked into high gear, but because of low zinc, my progesterone couldn't keep up to balance me out. (Did I mention that estrogen is anti-thyroid as well? Bye-bye metabolism! Hello expanding buttocks.).

I do realize that when it comes to hormones it is a complicated system with no magic bullet. Nonetheless, I have been supplementing with zinc. We'll see how it goes!

So i took zinc and I did feel a difference.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:22 PM

I don't know where I got the figure to calculate the ratio at that time. Very soon after that, my cycle resumed, and I felt a lot better. I guess I should go get retested and see where I am with that. Another thing I could look into is thyroid, which was normal (up from previously being slightly hypo -- I think my diet had corrected that) but it could be off again. Maybe my current low has nothing to do with weaning.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 07:56 PM

My other thought is about the abrupt drop in oxytocin. As you know oxytocin is a feel good hormone that counters cortisol. My unfounded idea is that the sudden drop in oxy. may cause a temporary overcorrection in cortisol production. Thus creating a temporarily high cortisol scenario. I sure felt like I had high cortisol, stress intolerance, water retention, poor sleep - "Modulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. Oxytocin, under certain circumstances, indirectly inhibits release of adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol and, in those situations, may be considered and...

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

"postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04"

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:20 AM

Yes, you are probably not deficient at that dose. The thing about estrogen, from what I understand, is that it is not the total amount you have, but the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. So, you could have pretty low estrogen, but if your progesterone is in the dumper then you could still have symptoms of estrogen dominance. If your cycle resumed and you felt better, that could be that your progesterone started kicking back in. John Lee MD has quite a bit of stuff out there on "estrogen dominance." When I was going through this there I found very little out there about this post weaning stuf

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:18 PM

"nice to know *how* low it should go. My results would otherwise indicate postmenopause, and I don't expect to be quite there yet. So, if my fatigue, lack of concentration, poor sleep, and low libido are basically side-effects of nursing, then I guess there isn't much to do but put up with it, though maybe I can take some supplements that will help levels be as high as my body will permit at present -- i.e., herbs that are reputed to help balance hormones without directly raising anything. The situation with progesterone is similar, except it is in range for follicular or periovulatory or

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04"

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:18 PM

In fact, I'll follow your example and post a journal entry: "estradiol 17.77 pg/mL The reference ranges for this vary depending on where you are in your cycle: follicular 26.6 - 161.0 preovulatory peak 187.0-382.0 luteal 32.7-201.0 postmenopausal 5.37-38.40 I find it really odd that there isn't a reference range for breastfeeding. If anyone can find one I'd love to see it. I'm pretty sure it is normal for estrogen to be lower at this time; estrogen interferes with prolactin, and I think the normal lack of menstrual cycle at this time is a reflection of low estrogen. Still, it would be

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 10:35 PM

Hmm. That's also an interesting idea. So to counteract this, I should do lots of oxytocin-producing activities? ;-)

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:16 AM

Your answer brings up another question that was touched on by Lisa, too: to what extent are estrogen and progesterone normalized when the menstrual cycle returns, but before weaning? I can't seem to find definitive answers about either of those aspects, only that nursing lowers estrogen, which is part of what keeps menstruation from occurring, which implies that the return of menstruation is a sign of rising estrogen.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:19 PM

postmenopausal. If it were much lower, I could still be ED. even with low estrogen, just by ratio, but I'm guessing it's normal for nursing. progesterone 0.76 ng/mL refs: follicular 0.14-2.03 periovulatory 0.40-4.47 mid-luteal 1.42-16.60 postmenopausal 0.15-1.04

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 07:56 PM

antagonist of vasopressin.[22] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on September 10, 2011
at 11:04 PM

Exactly. I think Quilt may have offered some suggestions at one point. But seeing as you are probably enjoying your nipple vacation. we'll skip those. :)

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 04:12 AM

Wow. That's fascinating. Thank you for sharing it! Estrogen is funny. I think that before I got my cycle back early this year my estrogen was too low. I started feeling a lot better after it resumed, and I chalked it up to that. But I know that too high is not good either. About the zinc, I've been taking 50mg of zinc citrate for several months now, so I'd be surprised if I were deficient.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 10, 2011
at 02:13 PM

Just before my cycle kicked in, I had started feeling crappy. My main hypothesis was estrogen dominance, and I got those both measured. Here were my results:

2
F1b82cc7e6d90384ad30007dd6c1b9e3

(1187)

on September 09, 2011
at 12:58 AM

I wasn't a paleo kind of person when I was breast feeding but I can share my thoughts. My son was 3 1/2 before we weaned. At this age he breast fed usually before bed and a little in the AM. You mention stopping abruptly. If it was not by his/her choice as natural maturity progressed, it could be emotionally upsetting to you (which you have mentioned) and upsetting your hormones through cortisol release. If your periods have been normal prior to this, estrogen and progesterone are probably normal. Emotions can trigger cortisol which hampers progesterone. Were you happy with your weight prior to weaning? And is your current weight gain mild or are you really worried about it? Take a look back at what else was happening at the the same time, or a few weeks prior. More than one stressor could have been happening at the time giving an increased effect. Emotional stress is like a hurricane. After the initial storm has died down the torrential rains persist for a while. Take it easy on yourself.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:24 AM

One possible confounder is that I was exercising more for a couple of weeks prior to weaning, and then returned to more moderate activity levels. But I don't think it's just that, because I've also noticed changes in my appetite (I'm hungrier), and I'm just a little more apt to feel emotional about whatever. I don't know. Life has so many factors, it's hard to tease out causes.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:11 AM

Thanks for your thoughts! The stopping was upsetting to me, because it wasn't my plan to stop yet, but not in a really traumatic way. Nothing bad happened, it was just that we spent some time apart and when we got back together he had lost interest. I decided it wasn't worth re-establishing nursing because my plan had been to wean in about 4 months time, and if I just let it go now it would be less of an ordeal. So I had a cry and then got over it. (cont')

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on September 09, 2011
at 03:18 AM

I certainly have a lot of stressors in my life right now, but I don't think that has changed particularly, and I don't think there was anything acute. So I doubt it's a cortisol problem. I have had normal periods now for a few months, so that wasn't a change either. Just before weaning I had reached and held for a week a new weight low after a long plateau. The new low was about 5 lbs above my goal (I guess -- it's so hard to estimate). Now I'm back up a little above where I was sitting for months before that, which is about 8 lbs higher than the low.

0
8c241471476f7e13104ec54cf91a3541

(0)

on May 30, 2017
at 05:55 AM

I just wanted to thank "none" for the information about Zinc deficiency post weaning.  I nursed my son for 4 yrs and was experiencing hormone imbalances, what I thought was hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue and I even had pericarditis that lasted a long time.  I read your post about Zinc and figured I was probably deficient.  So the next day I started taking 50mg Zinc gluconate (all I could find at the drug store) and after a few days I'm feeling more like myself again!  Something I hadn't felt like since I became pregnant!!!  I have more energy and motivation!  I'm amazed that more health professionals don't know about this!  Thanks again!

Gillian 

0
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on July 20, 2013
at 10:29 PM

Since I am dealing with this same thing right now I wanted to ask a follow up question. Hope you guys don't mind. How long did it take for your weight to finally stabilize after you weaned? We weaned about 2 1/2 months ago and my weight is still going up like crazy. So far I've gained about 12 lbs. It would just be nice to think there is an end in sight for this soon.

0
86e457d0e696661b4dbe9fd68a1d98c1

on December 15, 2012
at 02:10 PM

Hi! I am dealing with the same thing. How much zinc did you take that helped?

0
8c4f2e62cbf7c2f8845ea41e8f1ef0f9

(0)

on December 04, 2012
at 03:09 AM

So I stopped nursing at 9 months. It was baby weaned and actually went very smoothly, until good ol aunt flo came for her first visit...oh boy! I have been dealing with hormonal imbalances since the end of July. I had post pardum after I gave birth. They put me on cymbalta but only stayed on it for 2 months, I felt better and didn't want to nurse and take meds. So when it came back after weaning I knew something was not right. I have no appetite and can hardly keep anything down. I have lost weight and have no energy. I am a complete mess. I have seen both my gp and ob. They have put me on 2 different birth controls and finally this last month of crazy hot flashes I decided to o off the bc. We just switched my antidepressant today, so now I am just waiting to feel better. It's nice to read all the posts, I knew I couldn't possibly be the only female out there experiencing this. I am curious about the zinc...I will have to look into it.

3959828c57f2aeddc08e5f374e92ad36

(87)

on April 24, 2013
at 09:46 PM

I had similar symptoms and a detox and regulating my hormones helped. For both I used herbal supplements- DIM, Calcium D Glucarate, milk thistle, vitex and burdock root.

0
794e553989153795824f230bf52d90f5

on September 23, 2012
at 07:34 AM

I know this is an older discussion but I'm in a similar situation and I'm wondering what you've learned and how this has played out for you over the last year?

I'm relieved to find a post related to hormone changes as the potential source of weight gain. I weaned about 3 months earlier than originally planed, quite abruptly. Let me back up, much to my surprise, I lost all of my pregnancy weight within a couple of months after giving birth, without exercising and while eating a heartily. I chalked it up to the baby being a hearty eater and it may also be hereditary as my sister did the same. However, she was in her mid-20's and I'm in my late 30's, so I was expecting to have to work for it. It's been 3 months since weaning and I have gained 10-14 lbs (depending on what time of day I weigh, which varies by 4 lbs in the same day, btw). Shortly after weaning I started exercising regularly again for the first time since birth, almost 2 yrs ago. Before, I could swing a random hike or yoga class but nothing regular. I've been a long-term healthy eater (gluten free for almost a decade now) and I've always been able to maintain my weight through walking. In the past, if I gained a couple of lbs and my clothes felt a little snug, I start walking, maybe two miles a couple times/wk and typically see results almost immediately. The last month I've increased my walking to 4 miles a day 4-5 days a week and have gained weight!?! I work at home and my job has been incredibly stressful all year, working wasn't planned but is a result of partner's job situation. When I started walking after weaning, it was really more to deal with the adrenaline/cortisol and stress from relentless deadlines, it felt necessary for my sanity. At the time my weight wasn't bothering me yet, I noticed a couple of lbs after a trip and thought, "added benefit, walking will knock that out." As fall dawns, I'm looking at needing a new wardrobe, going up a size for the first time in 2o+ years. It's challenging to accept. Additionally, I have been noticing that as soon as I ovulate I experience PMS symptoms -- irritability, impatience, cry easily, tender lower abdomen -- which just escalates over the next two weeks until I'm incredibly crampy and last cycle I had a migraine the day before. I'm also becoming less regular. So, obviously there's some hormonal imbalance, it's just somehow a relief to think the weight gain is related, too, and that I may be able to resolve both. I hope I don't have to choose between living at an uncomfortable weight and being obsessive to maintain a comfortable one. (What I mean by comfortable is that I find being at the mid to low range of my bmi recommended weight physically more comfortable. For example, my legs are so chunky that I can't sit comfortably on my knees lately.) --thanks

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on October 04, 2012
at 11:16 PM

Hi, isobel808. I didn't ever get strong answers on this one. My own weight stabilized again, although I think I still weigh about 5 pounds more than I did before weaning. I didn't write the numbers down, so I'm not 100% sure. I'm sorry you are dealing with that gain. I know how hard it can be to adjust to going up a size.

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