Hormone Therapy and Postpartum Depression
‘Hormone’ comes from a Greek word that means “to spur on”. A hormone is a type of chemical released by one or many cells. It can affect cells in other parts of the body. These are like little messengers of the endocrine glands, (Pineal, Pituitary, Hypothalamus, Thyroid, Parathyroid, Thymus and Adrenal etc.) Hormones carry signals from one cell to another. This maintains the chemical levels in our bloodstream and helps maintain the equilibrium. If the body suffers from a chemical imbalance its due to the hormonal imbalance, in such cases hormone therapy is required. Postpartum depression is something that often takes place following a pregnancy and is linked to hormone imbalance.
Hormones are responsible for the growth, development and to maintain energy levels in the human body. An imbalance of some hormones have effects on the body like mood swings, activation or inhibition of the immune system, irregular metabolism, hunger cravings, effect the reproductive cycle, emotional imbalances like postpartum depression for example as we mentioned.
Hormones are mainly of two types ‘steroids’ and ‘peptides’.’ Steroids’ are the sex hormones and affect sexual maturation and fertility. Steroids are made from cholesterol either by the placenta when the fetus is in the womb or by the adrenal glands or a gonad (testes in males &ovaries in females) after the child is born. These are responsible for the physical development from puberty to old age and the fertility cycles as well. Sometimes hormone therapy can be used for infertility.
‘Peptides’ regulate the other functions of the body like sugar concentration and sleep. They contain ‘Amino’ acids and are referred to as the ‘protein hormones’.These help burn fat and build muscles. Another peptide hormone, ‘Insulin’ starts a process that converts sugar into cellular energy.
There are a lot of hormonal changes in a woman’s puberty onwards hormones affect women in a big way, example pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) causes emotional out bursts, temper fluctuation etc. During pregnancy a woman undergoes a lot of hormonal changes; these affect her mentally and physically. After childbirth or postpartum again there are many hormonal changes happening in the body. It is a complex mix of physical, mental, behavioral changes which happen after childbirth. These are attributed to the chemical, psychological, and social changes that happen after having a baby. Hormone therapy should be given immediately if the woman has a history of PMS.
Post-partum depression (PPD) can vary from woman to woman. Symptoms can vary from mild to very severe like sadness, extreme fatigue, reduced libido, anxiety; extreme emotional outbursts mild version is called ‘the Baby Blues’, while the severe one is called ‘Postpartum Psychosis’. In such cases it better to take hormone therapy at the earliest possible diagnosis.
The levels of ‘Estrogen’ and ‘Progesterone’ rise and fall drastically during and after pregnancy, this causes a major imbalance of hormones causing all the problems. The hormone therapy should be given depending on the type and seriousness of the case. Before considering any psycho pharmaceutical drugs or anti depressants which can be harmful to you and your baby, it is best to get professional help in such cases from reputable endocrinologist or an obstetrician/gynecologist who is familiar with hormone therapy.