Summer is here and if you’re in Tucson (or anywhere around Southern Arizona) then you’re definitely feeling the heat. The highs this week are projected to be almost 110 degrees every single day!
While there is lots of information on how to keep yourself and your baby cool during these hotter months, I wanted to focus on why it’s extra important to keep hydrated postpartum (the time period after giving birth to a child). Everyone should keep hydrated - we know this. But there are unique things happening to the body after giving birth that make it extra important to do so.
After giving birth, hormones throughout the body will fluctuate. This is because your body is re-adjusting after pregnancy. One hormone in particular that drops dramatically after birth is estrogen. Estrogen influences the way your hypothalamus regulates body temperature. (The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that controls your body’s temperature). When estrogen levels are low, your hypothalamus will think that the body is too hot, which results in excessive sweating. Low estrogen also causes you to urinate more. The excessive urination experienced by mothers and birthing people postpartum mostly occurs during the first week after birth. Estrogen is typically at its lowest about a week postpartum.
Another reason hydration is so important postpartum is because of constipation. Constipation is common postpartum. Regular processes during labor (like the loss of fluids and defecation while giving birth) as well as other factors (such as not eating during labor) cause most mothers and birthing people to experience constipation postpartum. Fluids (in other words, keeping hydrated) and eating foods with fiber will help defecation get back to normal.
Rising Body Temperature
Did you know that your body temperature rises after giving birth? This is another result of all the hormonal shifts after giving birth. There are two particular times when body temperature rises postpartum - within 24 hours after birth (this is due to all the hard work put in during labor, as well as from the fluid loss) and on day three postpartum when breasts/chests start producing more milk.
Breastfeeding, Chestfeeding, and Prolactin
Speaking of milk, breastfeeding/chestfeeding is a form of fluid loss. Ask anyone who has breast/chest fed - it makes you thirsty! Prolactin, the hormone responsible for breast/chest milk, also plays a role here. The higher your prolactin levels are, the lower your estrogen levels will be. As we saw before, low estrogen causes the body to sweat and urinate more. So for those who are breastfeeding/chestfeeding, staying hydrated is even more necessary. (Fun fact: people who formula feed will sweat less than those who breast/chestfeed.)
With the postpartum time period often being such a whirlwind, it can be easy to forget to stay hydrated. This is where a supportive partner, family member, friend, or postpartum doula can come in handy. Leaving water bottles in places that are easily accessible for parents (for example, in areas where breastfeeding/chestfeeding/pumping often occurs, at the bedside, etc.) is a small but helpful way for new parents to stay hydrated. Other drinks (like tea) will also help keep the body hydrated (plus a nice cup of tea can be very comforting!) Whatever the drink of choice is, getting those fluids in the body is so, so important postpartum.
Stay hydrated, friends!
Clevelend Clinic - "Postpartum Night Sweats" (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/24631-postpartum-night-sweats#:~:text=fluid%20after%20delivery.-,Hormone%20levels,that%20controls%20your%20body%20temperature )
Christian Martin Tjiu Ritonga , Haleyoan Sofinia , Muhammad viky , Rokibullah. The Physiological Changes in the Postpartum Period After Childbirth. ASEAN, Vol. 1 No. 03 December 2022