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What happens to our hormones after we give birth?

When we give birth to a baby and deliver the baby’s placenta, hormones oestrogen and progesterone both rapidly drop and remain low.

This change is responsible for many symptoms women experience after birth, from the baby blues (peripartum/postnatal depression) and immune system changes that can result in a flare of pre-existing autoimmune conditions like thyroiditis.

This hormone drop, together with natural pituitary surges of Prolactin and the love hormone Oxytocin  is a co-ordinated catalyst for breast milk production to be stimulated.

When a baby suckles the nipple, sensory imputs tell the brain to produce prolactin and oxytocin hormones.

During pregnancy, prolactin hormone stimulates the growth development and maturation of breast tissue in preparation for breast feeding and causes milk to be produced. There is a “supply and demand pattern” that develops. Them more a baby suckles, the more milk the breast will produce. 

Oxytocin hormone is responsible for the “let down reflex”, causing the breast to actively squirt milk into a baby’s mouth while suckling.

Both hormones oxytocin and prolactin are involved in a feed back loop involving the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the mothers ovaries. While breastfeeding is very frequent, for a time the ovaries remain “switched off”. Ovulation does not occur, and the other does not have a regular menstrual cycle. Her oestrogen levels remain persistently low during this time, termed “lactational amenorrhoea”.

There are some unwanted side effects to this naturally magnificent process. Oestrogen is the female hormone of desire, and without it, libido can wane. After giving birth, and while your baby is young, it is highly likely that your baby will wake you multiple times every night to feed. Libido is further compromised by fatigue, and low sex drive is a problem many new mothers experience.

Having a low oestrogen level can cause your  vagina to become dry and fail to adequately lubricate, even at times when you are motivated and sexually interested. Sex can be painful, especially at a time where the vagina and pelvic floor may be healing after birth related tissue injury. Healing after giving birth to a baby takes time, and many women feel unsupported while getting used to a new sexual dynamic. Using a physiologically savy lubricant can make a really big difference to how new mothers feel about their body and sexuality after having a baby. 

Estradial is a lubricant and daily intimate moisturising treatment enhanced with low dose bioidentical oestrogen. Using Estradial to improve vaginal comfort may assist breast feeding mothers to have comfortable sex with their partner, once they are ready.

The amount of bioidentical oestrogen in Estradial is safe for breast feeding mothers and cannot suppress or diminish breast milk production.

Estradial is a treatment designed to improve feminine comfort at stages of life where local vaginal oestrogen is naturally diminished. A lot of women worry about what sex will be like after having a baby. Ellechemy is here to help. 

How do mother’s breasts produce milk?

Breast milk is designed to be the perfect nourishing formula for a human baby. This liquid gold is composed of fats, carbohydrates (mainly the disaccharide lactose), proteins, vitamins and minerals and immune protective factors including antibodies and white blood cells. Whey proteins in breast milk,  lysozyme and lactoferrin can in addition kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.  

Epidermal growth factor in breastmilk, encourages the maturation of your baby’s  gut lining.

Colostrum is the special concentrated milk produced in the first few days after a baby is born, high in fat soluble vitamins. A transition phase occurs with mature milk “coming in”, filling the breasts and being produced in larger quantities from 2 to 4 days after a baby is born. 

Having a low oestrogen level after giving birth, encourages the production of the hormones that are directly responsible for breast milk production: prolactin and oxytocin.

Prolactin stimulates the production of milk by cells of the breast called the alveoli. The highest prolactin levels occur at night, preparing for your baby’s next feed while you rest.

Oxytocin is the love hormone, and is responsible for the “let down reflex”. Oxytocin is released while a baby is suckling and causes the breast to naturally let down and “squirt” milk into the baby’s mouth.  Because oxytocin is a hormone that helps mothers feel love and affection for their baby, breast feeding can assist with forming a strong emotional bond between mother and child and a lot of mothers really enjoy the feeling.

The tertiary or final breast development that occurs in pregnancy and breast feeding can be considered as the final stage of female puberty. While in the modern world we have contraceptive options, for our ancestors, a first pregnancy would have naturally followed puberty quite closely.

Breast tissue follows a “ rule of twos”

Normal breast tissue has two major structures: these are called ducts and lobules.

There are two types of epithelial cells, luminal and myoepithelial

There are two types of connective tissue or stroma  (inter and intra lobular)

Up to 10 major ducts open onto the nipple.

Breast tissue is arranged in lobules (cell clusters), collections of alveoli (milk making cell structures) and milk is carried to the nipple via a “tree-like” system of channels known as milk ducts. 

Female breast tissue first develops during puberty and matures during pregnancy. In late pregnancy, the breast becomes functional for the first time, making colostrum, the baby’s first food. Milk production and secretion starts in earnest, triggered by the hormonal changes that occur in labour and after giving birth and also stimulated by a baby suckling at the nipple.

When a baby weans, the structures of the breast as a milk making factory persist, and can be reactivated at a future time (following a future pregnancy).

It's quite normal for your period (and menstrual cycle) to recommence as your mild production declines when your baby starts solids.

Rekindling your sex life after giving birth and breast feeding can be challenging. Ellechemy products can really help. 


  1. Infant and Young Child Feeding: Model Chapter for Textbooks for Medical Students and Allied Health Professionals. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009. SESSION 2, The physiological basis of breastfeeding.Available from:    
  2. Pillay J, Davis TJ. Physiology, Lactation. [Updated 2023 Jul 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  3. Sampieri CL, Montero H. Breastfeeding in the time of Zika: a systematic literature review. 2019;7:e6452.