Regulating Your Hormones Naturally After Childbirth with Exercise

After going through months long of pregnancy and the extremely taxing process of childbirth, you might be already looking forward to resume your pre-pregnancy lifestyle. But before you jump right into that, you should first focus on recovering your body from childbirth. The truth is, postpartum recovery goes beyond your confinement period, and beyond your physical wound recovery too.

How Hormonal Imbalance Affects You

Apart from your genital or caesarean wound healing, having a good hormonal balance is one of the keys to ensure you have an all-round recovery. Did you know that your body goes through significant hormonal fluctuations as you go through pregnancy and childbirth? Hence, many postpartum women take months or longer for their body to function as it did prior to pregnancy.

Depending on the root cause, hormonal imbalance can cause symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, digestive problems such as diarrhoea and constipation, fatigue, headaches, anxiety and mood swings, sudden weight gain or weight loss, low sex drive, thinning hair and more. Specifically for women, if you have hormonal imbalance, you are likely to experience irregular menstrual cycles, excessive body or facial hair, tender breasts and cystic acne. 

So, as you can see, having good hormonal balance is really important to maintain your overall well being. But, how do you manage something that you can’t even touch or see? This is where exercise comes into the picture! 

How Exercising Helps with Regulating Your Hormones

We all know how exercise helps us to lose weight and maintain it at a healthy level, but actually, exercise offers great benefits in helping us to regulate our hormones and improve our overall wellbeing too. But of course, since you are still recovering from childbirth, be sure to get your doctor’s green light before attempting any exercise, and do it in moderation. Now, let us dive deep into knowing some interesting hormones in our body, what these hormones do, and how exercise helps us regulate them:

1. Progesterone & Estrogen

What Progesterone and Estrogen Do: 

Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that work in sync to regulate your menstrual function and fertility. Progesterone helps to balance estrogen, and when both of these hormones are balanced in the right ratio, they also help to lift your mood, support metabolism to help burn body fat, and promote better sleep. 

What Happens When They Go Out of Balance:

When you don’t have enough progesterone, it can lead your body to produce excessive amounts of estrogen — a condition called estrogen dominant — which can cause many health issues, including irregular menstrual cycle, a slow metabolism, mood swings, and bloating. 

How Exercise Helps:

A combination of strength and cardio exercise helps to regulate your estrogen and progesterone at a healthy level, which improve your overall well being from various aspects such as toning down menopause symptoms, and reducing your risk of breast cancer.

2. Insulin

What Insulin Does:

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas — a large gland that is situated at the back of the stomach. After we consume food (especially processed carbohydrates and sugary foods), our blood sugar (glucose) levels spike. Insulin acts like a “key” for the glucose to enter the “doors” of our cells in the muscles, liver, fat and other organs where it is used to provide us with energy. When this process happens, the blood sugar levels in our blood are regulated back into a normal range.

What Happens When It Goes Out of Balance:

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells in the body become “resistant”  to insulin, causing the glucose in your blood unable to enter the cells effectively, and causing the blood sugar level to remain high in the bloodstream. In order to move the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells where they are supposed to be, the pancreas can produce up to five to seven times more insulin. When the insulin level is high, it has a negative impact on the metabolism and can slow down the body’s ability to break down fats.

How Exercise Helps:

When you exercise, your body burns a form of glucose in your muscles called glycogen. As a result, your muscles replenish their glycogen stores with the glucose from the bloodstream. Depending on the intensity of your exercise, exercise promotes an immediate improvement in insulin sensitivity that can last around 2 to 48 hours. Both cardio and resistance training can help increase insulin sensitivity, and you’ll see even better results when you combine them.

3. Cortisol

What Cortisol Does:

Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands — triangle shaped organs that are located above your kidneys. To help your body deal with different kinds of stress, your brain signals the release of cortisol to control your mood, motivation, and fear. For instance, cortisol plays an important role in regulating your blood pressure, controlling your sleeping cycle, keeping inflammation down, managing how your body utilises carbohydrates, fats and protein and more.

What Happens When It Goes Out of Balance:

When cortisol levels are too high over a prolonged period of time, it may cause issues like high blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, low quality sleep, low energy levels and may contribute to increased blood sugar levels.

How Exercise Helps:

Intense workouts increase cortisol for a short period of time due to stress on your body, but it helps to decrease it during the night time. Hence, to maintain your cortisol at a healthy level, you should exercise in moderation and be sure to get adequate rest each day after your workout session.

4. Serotonin

What Serotonin Does:

Although serotonin is more well-known for its function to stabilise mental health, it actually affects the whole body, particularly helping you with eating, digestion and sleeping. For example, serotonin is mainly found in the stomach and intestines, where it helps to control your bowel movements and function. Meanwhile, serotonin also helps to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood.

What Happens When Its Level is Low:

Low levels of serotonin has been linked with insomnia and in serious cases, it may lead to anxiety and depression.

How Exercise Helps: 

Your body releases serotonin when you exercise, even more when you exercise outside when the sun is still up. Exposure to sunlight also helps trigger your brain signals to release serotonin as well. Good levels of serotonin promotes better sleep at night. Furthermore, increasing your serotonin to a healthy level can also positively impact your mood, appetite, digestion, memory and social behavior.

How to Get Started

Now that you have a better understanding of how exercise helps to regulate your hormones and improve your overall health, let’s have a look at some of the easy exercises you can do as weeks go by. However, as you are still under postpartum recovery, remember to get your doctor’s advice before you start doing any form of exercises, especially if you had a c-section delivery or any other health complications. Furthermore, you should also start with low intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity while monitoring how your body responds to it.

Here’s a general guide of the exercise that you can do after childbirth:

  • 0 to 6 Weeks: Lying-down exercise that focuses on your core, such as pelvic tilts and draw in abdominals.
  • 6 to 8 Weeks: Low impact exercises like walking and static bike.
  • 3 Months: Moderate impact exercises like running and jumping rope.
  • 6 Months: High impact exercise like weight lifting and karate.

Speed Up Your Postpartum Physical & Mental Recovery with Good Nutrition

Before you even start including exercise as part of your daily routine to regulate hormones after giving birth, you need proper nutrition to recover your postpartum wounds. Not to mention having a well-balanced diet that consists of essential nutrients and minerals helps support your mental wellbeing and lower risks of postpartum depression too. Hence, you should pay attention to the nutritional quality of your food for confinement.

Skip the hassle of meal planning and leave it all to our in-house dietitian, award-winning chef and professional kitchen team to serve you nutritious, well-balanced, and delicious food for confinement. Tian Wei Signature’s confinement food delivery SG service offers fusion and traditional Chinese confinement food, featuring a wide variety of meat dishes, vegetable dishes, desserts and confinement soup Singapore mothers love. 

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