Hormones. Necessary, I know, but the slightest imbalance or surge can really throw you and your body completely out of whack.
The first time you really notice your hormones are during your angsty, Alanis Morissette-fuelled teenage years. The next biggest surge for me was pregnancy. And now six years later, I’m definitely more aware of hormonal changes around my monthly cycle.
Before giving birth, I suffered from really terrible period pain. My GP put me straight on the pill as a young teen and I would have to take a ridiculous amount of painkillers each month just to be able to cope. Often I would be in tears from the gut-wrenching cramps.
Once my cycle returned after I finished breastfeeding, I realised that I didn’t have severe period pain anymore. The pain was there, but mild in comparison to what I experienced in the past.
What I have begun to notice though is a more distinct pattern in terms of how I feel over the course of the month. I know this is being driven by fluctuating levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone in my body.
I think it’s really important to understand what your own patterns are, so that you can come up with ways to manage them better.
Lack of energy
To be honest, it’s not so much lack of energy as feeling so unbelievably tired that I’m falling asleep on the sofa by 9pm. Even if I’ve slept well the night before, I just feel as though there’s absolutely nothing left in the tank the following day.
I used to try and fight it but I’ve realised that I can’t! I know why I feel that way, and just have to accept that for a few days, I have to take things a bit easier and get an early night.
Changes in skin and hair
I thought I’d left skin breakouts well behind me in my teens, but unfortunately not! A few days before my period I tend to break out a little despite no change in my skincare regime, so I know it’s definitely driven by hormonal changes.
A knowledgeable friend recommended I try Starflower Oil supplements, which have helped a lot actually. I take one every day along with a multivitamin and they work really well for me. I still break out a little but overall, my skin is much clearer and calmer.
During puberty, my hair changed a lot too. I had more of it, and its texture changed from dead straight to wavy and kinky.
Some people may find that hormones have the opposite effect and actually thin their hair. If this is the case for you, check out advice from a specialist site which lists some frequently asked questions related to hair loss.
Gah, I hate this one! About three days before my cycle starts, I get terrible bloating in my stomach. It is so uncomfortable!
Around this time, I have to make sure I’m extra careful about what I eat, so that I don’t exacerbate the problem.
Also comfy, stretchy clothes are my friend. The bloating and discomfort tends to subside after a couple of days but is not at all pleasant while it lasts.
Harder to sleep
Your body temperature fluctuates depending on where you are in your cycle.
I definitely don’t sleep as well during my period. I feel much hotter and find it harder to drift off. I also sleep much more lightly, toss and turn a lot, and wake really easily at the slightest noise.
I make sure I have the windows open so that lots of fresh air is coming in. I don’t like sleeping and not being covered up, so I usually end up doing the ‘one leg on top of the duvet’ trick, which helps!
Listen to your body
I’m clearly not a medical practitioner, but the biggest piece of advice I can share is listen to your body and go with the flow. You don’t have to be Superwoman. We’re not designed to be 100% consistent in how we feel every day.
Our hormones are powerful things. You can’t fight the effects, they’re there for a reason, but you can learn to tune in to how you’re feeling and try to adapt accordingly.
Share your thoughts
Have you noticed any significant hormonal changes since having a baby? How do you cope with the effects? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Your advice may well help a fellow mum!
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post.