By Dr. Erika Schwartz
Our hormones are at the core of our energy, mood and overall ability to lead a healthy life. Hormones fluctuate throughout every stage of life—especially during pregnancy. My mission is to empower women to understand the natural changes that their bodies go through during pregnancy and help them naturally stay in balance, so they can feel great and enjoy every moment of this special time.
Dr. Erika Schwartz – Rex Lott Photography
Aside from the changes your body experienced during puberty, you’re never as affected by your hormones as during your pregnancy. From morning sickness and weakened bladders to emotional mood swings, hormones are the root cause of both physical and emotional symptoms you’ll experience during your pregnancy. It’s important to know that these changes are completely normal, and understanding your bodily changes can help you better manage your health.
First, know that all hormone levels rise during pregnancy. Your body is producing elevated Human Chorioni Gonadotropin (HCG), estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. In the first few months, the HCG hormone spikes dramatically, which can cause morning sickness and nausea throughout the day and night. It can also explain bloating, a weakened bladder and increased susceptibility to colds and flu, as HCG can suppress your immune system. At the beginning of your second trimester, HCG levels begin to stabilize, and morning sickness—in most cases—subsides.
At this time, however, estrogen and progesterone rise and you’ll notice a plethora of physical and emotional symptoms. Some women will experience feelings of euphoria and an increased libido, while others will feel drained and tired, with a total disinterest in sex. Everyone is different, but every change is caused by fluctuating hormone levels.
So, what can you do to stay healthy and feeling great? The simple answer is to take good care of yourself by eating well, sleeping, and staying active. Pregnancy is the perfect time to learn more about your health and get in tune with your body. Spend time looking at your body and watch the marvel of its change without fear. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy watching your breasts grow, your belly swell and your shoes get too small. The best thing you can do is embrace and enjoy these changes, because they’re completely normal.
Once the baby arrives, you’ll experience another wave of changes as the elevated pregnancy hormones begin to drop. During this time, it’s common for women to experience feelings of depression and anxiety. If depression lingers for a few months after birth, women may consider taking progesterone to regulate their hormones, warding off post partum depression and helping them get back to a normal state. I also recommend monitoring thyroid activity, which often drops too much after pregnancy. A key indicator to watch for is if your hair or weight returns to normal within a few months.
It could take a year before you feel completely back to your old self. In this “recovery” stage, it’s important to continue to eat well and sleep as much as you can. Exercise in moderation—try sit ups every morning and pilates or yoga to help get your body back into shape. I also recommend taking vitamin supplements for optimal health. Start naturally with Omega 3 Fish Oil—this supplement contains all the vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy. I also recommend B Complex, Vitamins C, D, and E, Folic Acid, Iron, Selenium, and Zinc. But, the most important tip I can give is not to stress. Give yourself a break—you just went through one of life’s miracles!
A few things to remember…
1. Don’t treat pregnancy like a disease. It’s normal and most of the emotions and physical changes you experience are standard.
2. You will experience many new symptoms and feelings that may cause alarm, but you really only need to consider calling or seeing a doctor if you have a fever, your water breaks or you start bleeding.
3. Pregnancy is a time of joy! Treat it as such.
4. Marvel at the changes, embrace the weight gain…
5. BUT…eat well. Enjoy as many vegetables, meats, fruit as you want, but go easy on the junk. However, don’t go crazy with the limitations imposed by over-the-top fear mongers. All of us who already had kids before your generation ate salami and bologna while we were pregnant and you all came out normal (at least physically….).
6. Exercise. In moderation. Women who exercise have easier deliveries because their pelvic floor muscles are stronger and they can push that baby out faster. Exercising too much will not stop you from gaining weight but will make you miserable – so find the happy medium for you.
7. Sleep. The more quality sleep you get, the better. As the pregnancy progresses, you will become uncomfortable, so sleep will not be as restful as you would like. Once you have a baby you’re sleep deprived for years, so sleep now.
8. De-stress. Studies show that women who are stressed during pregnancy have smaller babies with all kinds of problems as they get older. Caress that belly and deep breathe during the day so your cortisol levels are low and steady and you feel great all the time.
9. Don’t worry about the rest of the world. Enjoy the one time in your life when you are the center of your life. Cherish the months—they pass all too fast.
10. Don’t buy everything recommended and don’t worry about not being ready for the blessed event. Newborns can sleep in a drawer as easily as they do in a fancy crib. Don’t get caught up in the craziness, or you might miss out on enjoying the real treat!
Dr. Erika Schwartz is a leading national expert in the fields of bioidentical hormone therapies, wellness and true disease prevention. She takes the groundbreaking stance that people’s lives don’t have to change just because their hormones do. After decades of seeing patients needlessly endure the symptoms of hormone imbalance, Dr. Schwartz has made it her mission to educate both medical professionals and everyday people on the power of preventive care and the wellness benefits of hormone balance. She is a firm believer that no one should suffer because of his or her body chemistry: For every imbalance, there’s a healthy, safe solution for a healthy, happy life. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Schwartz and has written four best-selling books, has testified before Congress, hosted her own PBS pledge special on bioidentical hormones, appeared on various news programs including CBS News, CNN and MSNBC as well as The View, Oprah Satellite Radio with Dr. Oz and many others.