How often have you experienced unexplained weight gain, mood swings, acne outbreaks or even irregular periods? Chances are you have but brushed these all off as stress from daily life. But what if it’s because of something more…
Have you ever heard of hormonal imbalance? It may be the cause of all this discomfort and it can be managed with the help of a gynaecologist. Here’s what you must know about hormonal imbalance.
What is Hormonal Imbalance and Why Does it Happen?
Ladies, the beauty of being of reproductive age is the undeniable ability to bear children. Unfortunately, it also means that we are susceptible to hormonal imbalances that are triggered by fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone levels. These are the hormones responsible for our sexual and reproductive development and play a crucial role in our overall physical well-being. So much so, even the slightest fluctuations can have significant effects on our bodies.
Some of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance include hair loss, weight gain and irregular periods. Because these are so common, there’s a good chance that you might assume they are caused by the stress from an endlessly hectic lifestyle, especially as mums.
But it’s important to recognise the signs and identify hormonal imbalance so that you can seek solutions from a gynaecologist. Why suffer when you can sort it out?
Here are 13 signs to look out for.
With age and childbirth, our metabolism can slow down. Oftentimes, we tend to ‘give up’ fighting the weight gain and accept it as part of mum life; or associate it with not having enough time to exercise and watch our diet. While there’s nothing wrong in accepting weight gain and changes in our bodies, we must also understand that hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism as well as determining how energy is used by the body. When the body produces insufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism occurs, leading to considerable weight gain.
Moreover, women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) exhibit a lack of sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Since this hormone is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar, these women are likely to experience weight gain. A dip in oestrogen levels can also make you feel hungrier than usual, causing you to eat more and gain weight.
Understanding the cause of your weight gain can help you to prevent unnecessary weight gain, and possibly have you feel better about yourself!
Yes, it’s true that not all of us have our periods that come like clockwork. An occasional delayed, or missed period is certainly not a cause for concern. However, it should not be happening frequently, especially not with a gap of several months between periods.
If you’re in your 40s and 50s, this could be part of the normal process when you are about to enter menopause. For younger women, this may be a sign of PCOS and warrants a visit to the gynaecologist for further assessment. Particularly if you are planning to have a child, or more children, you’d want to regulate your cycle as much as possible.
An increase in oestrogen levels can lead to the development of fibroids in the uterus. These fibroids are often the reason behind a heavy flow of blood during menstruation. So don’t ignore your unusually heavy periods, particularly if you experience it frequently. You can book an appointment at Gleneagles Hospital, where a multidisciplinary team provides a wide range of services in obstetrics and gynaecology.
Mums are perpetually tired so you should not be having any trouble falling asleep. In fact, many of us dream of bedtime all day long!
If it’s been a while since you had a restful sleep (assuming your children are already sleeping through the night, it may be due to causes such as hormonal imbalances. In most cases, decreased levels of the hormone progesterone which is produced by the ovaries could be a cause of sleeplessness. Additionally, low levels of oestrogen can result in profuse sweating and night sweats that get in the way of a good night’s rest.
You definitely want to sort this out as you need your sleep for good health as well as sufficient energy for the little ones!
You may get the odd pimple now and then, especially around the time of your period. But the days of stubborn, chronic acne should typically be over by this stage of your life. Overproduction of the hormone androgen can send your skin’s oil glands into overdrive. That in turn clogs pores, which are the precursor to acne flare-ups.
Not only is acne painful and uncomfortable, it may affect your self-confidence so it’s good to have it checked to rule out hormonal imbalance.
Stress and irregular meals can upset your tummy for sure. However, changing levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can also affect digestion. These fluctuations tend to occur during your monthly periods, which is why some women complain of diarrhoea and bloating around that time.
We get it, being a mum is a tough job. In fact, you’re probably so used to being exhausted that you may find it strange not to be. But there’s a difference between exhaustion after running around all day and perpetually experiencing grogginess or low levels of energy to a point where it disrupts your daily life. If so, it can be due to increased levels of progesterone or decreased thyroid levels. This warrants a visit to the doctor!
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is when small cysts carrying immature eggs develop inside the ovaries.
Those affected by PCOS are likely to generate higher levels of androgen, which is the male hormone that regulates the function of many organs on the body, such as the kidneys and liver. PCOS is recognised as a common hormonal disorder that results in a host of other problems such as:
- Excessive body hair
- Hair loss
- Weight fluctuation
- Skin problems
Not all women experience the same symptoms but if left undiagnosed and untreated, PCOS can lead to heart ailments and diabetes.
You may be grumpy or annoyed because someone just asked you to look for a sock for the 100th time. That’s normal. But if you are often irritable, sad and moody, it could be because of hormonal imbalances. Changes in oestrogen levels can adversely affect the release of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which prevents you from feeling happy.
A happy mum raises happy children, so don’t ignore this!
Women do experience a dry spell every now and then but in your reproductive years, it shouldn’t happen too often. Oestrogen levels on the lower end of the spectrum can be the reason behind it. Such hormonal imbalance can reduce moisture in the area, making you feel quite uncomfortable.
Having a healthy and active sex life is important, and vaginal dryness can get in the way so do get it checked.
- Leaky Breasts – Not From Breastfeeding
This is only normal if you are either breastfeeding or pregnant. Otherwise, if you notice a milky discharge being released from your nipples, it may be caused by abnormal levels of the hormone prolactin. This can denote diseases tied to glands within your body, namely the thyroid and pituitary glands.
Postnatal hair loss is extremely common but it should resolve a few months after giving birth. If you are experiencing hair thinning or your locks are lacking lustre, it can be attributed to decreased levels of oestrogen and progesterone. These dips also prompt an increase in androgen levels that shrink follicles and result in hair fall, compounding the problem.
We live in hot and humid Singapore and mostly welcome air-conditioning. If you find yourself unable to be in an air-conditioned room without a jacket, and if it wasn’t always the case, it might be a sign of hypothyroidism. This is especially so if everyone else seems to be doing just fine. Low levels of the thyroid hormone can bring about a number of symptoms, cold hands and feet being one of the more common ones.
Mums, we understand that women are used to facing a multitude of changes both physically and emotionally. They are so common and so many women experience it that we easily tend to dismiss them. Moreover, we are so busy taking care of everyone else that we often neglect ourselves. But if these symptoms are affecting the quality of your life, it is important that you speak to a doctor for there is no reason to suffer in silence.
You can book an appointment at Gleneagles Hospital, to get yourself checked and put your mind at ease. Gleneagles hospital consistently applies the latest developments in medicine and employs modern technology to provide you with quality care.
Remember, a happy and healthy mum raises happy, healthy, and confident children. Take the best care of yourself so that in turn, you can take the best care of your family!
This article was adapted from “13 Signs of Hormonal Imbalance in Women” by Dr Lisa Chin , first published on Health Plus on 10 August 2021.