is estrogen dominance with extendedbreastfeeding common?

Rachel - posted on 10/20/2011 ( 21 moms have responded )

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I am currently nursing my fourth child. He is 16 months old, and I am aiming to nurse up to the W.H.O. recommendation of 2 years for optimal immune response health. I have the added incentive of him being lactose sensiitive, and me feeling strongly that soy is a toxin to early childhood hormonal development (ergo, not an option). Now, I have extended nursed all my children, and every single time, I've felt great for about 9 months, then began to fall into a state of fatigue, lethargy, acne, weight gain, irritability, then later, hypoglycemia, thyroid malfunction, gall bladder issues etc. In short, I become estrogen dominant. So bad that I fear for my health. Here's the thing. I have the hormonal profile of a perimenopausal woman, when I'm only 31 (and have been having these symptoms in relation to nursing since I was 24). Now, the science is logical. When the baby is born, your body is swimming in progesterone from the plancenta, and your body creates prolactin while nursing to inhibit ovulation. Progesterone in a non-pregnant woman is provided by ovulation, so failing to ovulate for months would decrease your progesterone levels. Without progesterone to counteract it, oestrogen levels would go up. Due to the xenoestrogens in the North American culture, oestrogen dominance would naturally be hastened. So, my question is, where are the studies? Where are the rest of you? I cannot be the only one who is experiencing nursing induced premenopause, but Google has NOTHING on this, and neither do the hormone books. The only explanation I can come up with is that extended nursing isn't common enough to provide enough of an anecdotal sample. So, has any other extended nurser experienced this? Or am I crazy?

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ElizabethDePinto - posted on 11/16/2012

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I just came back from my yearly check up and I have had severe irritation around my urethra and the area surrounding...I just finished breastfeeding my 19 month old and my doctor said if a mother breastfeeds for a long time...early signs of menopause (like the problem I was having) can happen. She said it is because of lack of estrogen. She said I can wait and my body will fix itself most likely (since i have stopped nursing) or I can use and estrogen cream for a couple of months that will speed up the process of healing. I have stopped nursing only about a week ago and i already feel a little better. I know this post is extremely late but I hope it helps someone.

Rachel - posted on 10/27/2011

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success! I've found a compounding pharmacist who specializes in Bioidentical hormones (with the help of my doctor) and while my dr. had never even heard of bioidentical hormones (he's mid-thirties) he's openminded about exploring them with me. I've now read every single book in the regional library system with the word "hormone" in the title, and while plenty of post-pardum evidence is mentioned (the drop in progesterone with the loss of the placenta) I've still yet to see one reference to an extended nursing corellation (despite two other Circle of Mom threads that I personally think were women like us. One asking if nursing was what was making her tired; the response "No! I nursed and was tired, but that's just because____" and another thread from a woman with a 26mo and 10mo who couldn't stop herself from screaming back when her kids screamed (no coping skills)) I really just think the dots haven't been connected yet, but endocrinology is so COMPLEX that experts are few. I'm just so grateful my doctor is willing. I found him last time I extended nursed (my third child) so, we've been chasing these symptoms for a while.

Rachel - posted on 10/27/2011

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he doesn't want to "play" with your hormones, yet $10 says if you asked for birth control, he'd hand it right over. Ignorant...
what will I be taking? Progesterone for sure. The progesterone should take care of the thyroid and insulin hormone needs (since my thyroid gland and pancreas are perfectly healthy). I AM back to menstruating (twice now, after 14 month hiatus) so, if he reads the same lit I've read, he won't worry about an oestrogen compound. But he was honest with me about not knowing a THING about it. (doctors only have time to learn about what is thrust under their nose, and drug companies aren't lobbying for un-patent-able drugs. I talked to the pharmacist, he says they make it into a transdermal gel. What symptoms? Where do I start? I'm a mess! But progesterone is the architect hormone, and should set everything right, since I have a healthy young body with working ovaries still (I'm 31, so, youngish). For the record, progesterone, taken on the right schedule won't interfere with fertility. Progesterone is PRO-gestation! Its where it gets its name. And while progestin (the patented fakey in birth control) is very harmful to unborn children, progesterone supplementation during pregnancy produced an average of 30% increase in I.Q. in one study. All the books/reviews/articles I've read are unanimous that properly dosed BHRT progesterone has no adverse side effects to any functions in your body. (proper dosing recommendations vary however... Especially in the absence of menses. That's where a doctor becomes helpful).

Rachel - posted on 10/26/2011

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I know of three close friends who got pregnant on IUD's. Within the first year of using them... I've been reading hormone replacement therapy books all week, and they all say the same thing. They are all written by doctors who say they were NEVER taught this stuff as doctors, and now they're trying to get the word out to other doctors, but their hands are tied, because there is no money in bioidentical hormone research, because drug companies can't patent it. Which is why I'm doubtful that I'll get an educated answer from my doctor. The evidence is there, but the concrete research isn't, so its not mainstream.

Mary Renee - posted on 10/21/2011

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This is really interesting as I never thought of this. I have been nursing my daughter for the past 18-months and the first year was fine but now I'm experience similar symptoms, weight gain (I got back down to my fairly thin pre-pregnancy weight of 114 and now I'm up to 122 out of nowhere with no change in diet or activity level), fatigue, acne (and I never had an acne problem prior to my daughter's birth!), and irritability + zero patience. The biggest thing though, is that I got my period back when she was 7 months, BUT for the past 6 months I haven't had any period at ALL. I've taken like six pregnancy tests thought out this time (I'm not pregnant) and I'm also on the Progestone-Only Birth Control Pill because I can not get pregnant again (I'm not married)

Is this why I don't have my period? Am I perimenepausal? What does that mean? I'm only 25 (I was 23 when my daughter was born) but I've also had a history of not reacting well (or normally) to birth control. The first time I took Ortho Tri-Cyclen and I would bleed for two weeks straight. I tried Ortho Tri-Cyclen-Lo after that for a year and still was bleeding as much as a period for 60% of the time!

Then after I got my period back and tried the Depo Shot and bled for the entire 3 months. It sucked. It was "birth control" because it prevented me from having sex! Now I'm on the P.O.P, had my period for two months on it and now it's gone entirely.

I am not on an antidepressant but I am undoubtly depressed, although I always thought it was due to the highly stressful and unstable relationship between myself and my daughter's father.

Does this sound like what you're talking about?

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Rachel - posted on 10/27/2011

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I realize that didn't really address your symptoms question. But like I said, progesterone (the hormone we get from ovulating, which prolactin inhibits, which puts nursing moms at risk) is the
architect. There's no telling where the
body will pull back its supply. Brain
function, body function, mood health,
every inch of your body needs
progesterone. That's one of the reasons I think its been so hard to diagnos (and so often misdiagnosed as depression). But, he MUST know of the link between depression and hormones. I was first put on birth control 12 years ago because my then prescribed anti-depressants weren't working. I believe I was hormonally imbalanced way back then too, and that REAL hormones would have saved me a lot of stress these 12 years. I just don't understand how your doctor can justify not tinkering with your hormones, but will happily tinker with your brain chemistry. Boo.

Christina - posted on 10/27/2011

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so what is the bioidentical hormone that you will be taking? how do you use it? what symptoms is it treating? I asked the Dr I saw today about this and he said he wouldn't want to play with my hormones because I was young (28) and in case I wanted to have more children, he didn't want them to cause a problem (BUT HORMONES ARE CAUSING A PROBLEM!!!!!!!!) Ugh frustrating!!!!!

Christina - posted on 10/27/2011

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Well I was at the Dr's today, I actually saw a Dr that was just out of med school- so I would think he would have all the up to date info, but he wasn't very helpful. I asked about hormone testing, and he pretty much said that it wouldn't be very effective or very helpful. This is very frustrating! so I am just continuing on the antidepressants hoping that they will be effective for me ...
could I add both you ladies to me circle? so that if anyone gets any answers we could let each other know?

Christina - posted on 10/26/2011

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I also live in Canada - Ontario. Hopefully my DR will be willing to look for more information on what we are talking about if he doesn't know. Otherwise I may try going to my OBGyn, If I get any answers I will let you both know. Oh and I also went the entire pregnancy with the IUD in with the baby because the pull strings had gone up into my uterus so they couldn't pull it out. It was a stressful pregnancy because they told us we had a 50% chance of loosing him.
Anyways it is nice to know that there are others out there with similar problems and that I am not just 'crazy'
I do have some acne, but it isn't anything out of the ordinary for me, I have pretty much always had it, ever since I started ovulating.
I also have not started cycling yet, my son is a year old, it isn't uncommon for breastfeeding women to go for an extended period of time without ovulating. But be careful, you can get pregnant on your first ovulation without having a period first!
I also hate all the other birth control methods, be are married and think it rediculous to have to worry about condoms or other barrier methods!
Mary Renee- look into natural family planning, "The sympto thermal method" is what I am using. you take your temperature every morning, and also record your other signs (cervical mucus, position of the cervix, etc) so that you know when you are going to ovulate and when you have ovulated, then you will have a better idea of when you are 'safe'

Rachel - posted on 10/26/2011

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I read a lot of reviews for natural progesterone cream online, and then had my sil in California ship it across the border for me. I've had it a few weeks (I'm waiting until the proper week in my cycle to start taking it) but I confess to using a few dabs directly on some acne. My anecdotal evidence of a week and a half? They vanished! Not much evidence from just that, but I truly believe (and these books back me up) that if your acne is hormone based and you get a high quality cream (I am trying Emerita Pro-gest and Natpro, which both had rave reviews, and I'll be comparing them) they should help your acne. Also, (and this is just from my experience) natural products have less irritants. Lemon juice, tea tree oil, vitamin E, baking soda, honey,... These are far cheaper, more effective, and can be tailored to your skin. But you didn't actually ask, so I'll shut up now...

Rachel - posted on 10/26/2011

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you asked about hormone testing- yes, but a saliva test is far more accurate than a blood test, and several tests are required for accuracy (to see the ups and downs, not just the ratios)

Mary Renee - posted on 10/25/2011

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Christina, that's why I'm scared of the UTI, I've heard so many stories like yours! A lady in my Stroller Strides group got pregnant with a UTI in and they said it was too dangerous to take it out so she had it in the entire pregnancy. She has a boy and he was born, fine and healthy, but with a "T" imprint on his head! I'm not kidding! It went away of course, and it sounds like an urban legend but I swear that's what she told me.

I can't get pregnant, I got pregnant by "suprise" when I was 23, and now I'm 25 but I'm still not married and I don't have a job and the three of us are living in a one-bedroom apartment with just my boyfriend's income, and I desperately want to move back home to where my parents live so it's just the worst possible time to have another child.

But I know with my schedule and my boyfriends schedule... and our sexual preferences, the idea of putting a diaphragm in an hour before intercourse is just laughable, and condoms after a 5 year long monogamous STI-free relationship is no fun. So I'm on the P.O.P. and he's pulling out for added protection but I'm am extremely sensitive to hormonal birth control.

It's too bad you got pregnant on the copper IUD because that's what I was going to consider for myself next had I not heard stories of people getting pregnant with it.

I should talk to my doctor too, but I need to find a new one because I think I've said this before, he didn't respect my wishes during labor so I don't really trust him anymore, and I hate to say this but I think a lot of his clients are uneducated because he tends to give everyone the same cookie cutter answers.

If anyone does see a doctor, let me know what your results are! I'd say my biggest symptoms are: lack of period, extreme fatigue, slight weight gain, and reoccurring acne.

Like you said, Christina, I know who I am! I think some of the fatigue could be from running after a 1 and a half year old along with being responsible for 100% of the chores and meals and errands in our household, but I wash my face multiple times a day, never had acne before in my life, and there's no explaining the missing period at 25, except from extended breastfeeding.

Christina - posted on 10/25/2011

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I had trouble with birth control pills, it made my mood worse - which leads me to believe that mine is definetly a hormonal issue. I am going to talk to my Dr about hormone testing? (Is this possible) I want to know if my suspicions are correct that hormones are causing my mood problems and not seratonin problems. I saw some slight improvements while on antidepressants- but not as much as I would like. I just want to feel 'normal' again, I know who I am and it is frustrating that I don't feel like that person! Oh and after my first child I had a copper T IUD put in because I didn't want any hormone birth control,- when my daughter was 1yr old I got pregnant despite the IUD and we had a healthy boy.

Mary Renee - posted on 10/23/2011

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oh, interesting. I have been putting it off but I need to talk to a doctor and get to the bottom of my hormonal issues and figure out a birth control method that is healthy for me. I have never responded regularly to birth control, it has always etiher made me bleed the entire time, or given me a two week + period, or no period at all! But my troubles with birth control is what caused me to become pregnant (I don't want to say by accident... I prefer by surprise) and I don't have the financial means or stability in my current relationship to have another child... nor the discipline to use condoms (or abstain, for that matter)

I will talk to my doctor about hormone identical pills, although I really need to find a whole new ob/gyn because this guy doesn't listen to my request very seriously and just likes to pigeon hole me with every other woman.

Rachel - posted on 10/23/2011

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I'm so sorry! No, you aren't in permanent menopause! Your body is just in a state where it is mimicking menopause, and all the health issues that go with it. Once you stop producing prolactin, your ovaries should kick back on and you can have all the kids you want. As for going to your ob/gyn, my advice would be to ask her about bioidentical hormones, and see what she says. That's the route I plan to take, but seeing as I live in Canada, bioidentical hormones are far more closely restricted (which is usually a good thing, since it means our milk/meat is still organic) but it means hormone imbalance treatment is trickier.

Mary Renee - posted on 10/23/2011

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What should I do? I'm really confused I definitely don't want menopause at 25! I want to have more children some day. Should I see my ob/gyn? How can I get this taken care of?

The reason I'm on the P.O.P was because I understood that estrogen could hurt my supply. I thought menapause was caused by a decrease in estrogen and progestone, why would elevated estrogen levels cause early menapause?

How could I be have menapause from breastfeeding at 25 if my own mother literally JUST went though menapause this year and she breastfed me and my sister. I am so confused. If I went to my ob/gyn about this I wouldn't even know what to say, except it is strange to me that I haven't had my period in months and I'm not pregnant or underweight.

Rachel - posted on 10/22/2011

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I know I don't know you two, but thank you for responding. After 8 years of researching, talking to doctor after doctor, reading book after book, and never seeing where I fit, its good to hear that I'm not alone. I am adamantly pro-nursing, but turning a blind eye to this doesn't help the mothers suffering to do their best for their babies. I need real help, not to be blithely told "your crazy. Nursing can't hurt you. Eat better, go to the gym and take some Welbutrin, and you'll be fine." Thank you for sharing with me! I just didn't want to feel alone anymore.

Rachel - posted on 10/22/2011

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drug companies cannot patent a natural product like progesterone, so before they make birth control, thry alter its molecular structure just enough so they will still fool your uterus, but enough that they don't function properly in your body. At first, they may make you feel better, because they inhibit the production of oestrogen, but ultimately, without ACTUAL progesterone in your body, the balance sways back to oestrogen dominance. And dr. Lee says they even cause cancer! The worst part is, that bio-identical progesterone is cheap and easy to make, and has no additional side effects. But the doctor gives you progestin anyway, because that's what the drug companies make. ...Of course this is all just what 've read. I've never had bio-identical progesterone, so I can't compare.

Rachel - posted on 10/22/2011

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YES! Yes it does, Mary.
Christina- I didn't experience them this severely with my first one or two either. At first it was just fatigue and irritability. But with each child I've fallen apart more. I tried anti-depressants too. I hope they work better for you than for me, but for me, it wasn't a lack of seratonin/dopamine, but rather a lack of progesterone to create receptors for them. After the placebo effect wore off, the antidepressants proved useless to me.
Mary- yeah, I've gained weight back too. It's always been easy to lose after the baby, but then (along with the other symptoms) the weight starts creeping up. You ask if you are premenopausal? Dr John Lee (The guru of female hormones) defines menopause as 12 consecutive months without menses, perimenopause and premenopause are sporatic menses leading up to this. But ALL his research was with older women, despite this definition applying to many nursing women. Mary, may I tell you what he has written about progestin birth control? I know you didn't ask, but I (and most doctors) don't seem to know it. I'll start a second post...

Christina - posted on 10/21/2011

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I do not have all the same symptoms as you, but I can understand your frustration. I have made some similar connections with hormones and the problems they create after child birth. I have 2 children (one 2.5 and the other just turned a year. Mine is issues with depression/anxiety, which symptoms include fatigue, zero patience, irritability, etc. My mood is fine while pregnant, and during early breastfeeding, then at about 6months these symptoms start to come back and only get stronger and stronger. I just started back on an antidepressant even though I am still nursing. My doctor and I discussed it and came to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the risks for me and my children. I also chart my cycle so I know I have not ovulated yet, but I have been seeing estrogen surges which i am convinced are the cause of my problems. It is very frustrating. I'm sorry - this isn't very helpful for you, but I felt like I had a little common ground here so I had to post.

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