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Hormones, Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Insomnia

Something I have noticed over the last many years is that, as a female, my hormones impact my sleep cycles. From my periods, to pregnancy and the postpartum period to breastfeeding, infertility treatments and miscarriages, I have observed the increases and decreases in my hormones to completely upend whatever sleeping pattern I have managed to maintain for the few days or weeks prior.

I think there are several reasons for this.

First off, hormones change our body chemistry. For me, they change my body temperature - I often run warm or have hot flashes leading up and during my period, and I most certainly ran warm during pregnancy. My husband used to call me his human space heater. This is when we got an extra fan for our bedroom.

Insomnia during pregnancy

During my pregnancy, I struggled to sleep more than my regular insomnia challenges. I attribute this to the changing and expanding shape of my body, trouble getting comfortable at night, getting up frequently to use the restroom, and the need for snacks in the middle of the night (it's a real thing, ask anyone!).

I also struggled with heartburn and carpel tunnel in my second and third trimesters concurrently, so getting into a comfortable position was difficult. Without being comfortable, it was difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. I remember looking over at my husband during these sleepless nights while he was deep in dreamland and thinking about how jealous I was.

The postpartum period

Then, during the postpartum period, sleep was basically an elective.

Our newborn was on a 3 hour schedule, meaning that I needed to be awake to either breastfeed or pump every 3 hours. If you factor in about 30 to 45 minutes per wakeup, I was looking at about 2 hour windows of sleep at a time. And when you have a new baby, it is impossible to keep your mind from wandering, worrying, and coming up with questions - this meant that falling back asleep became more difficult.

For the first several months of my daughters life, I lived in a haze. I wasn't a good sleeper before having a baby. Having a new baby sort of eliminated many of the options or coping tools I had used to manage my insomnia beforehand. This is when I became crabby and overtired, and had to work harder to not lose my patience as a lack of sleep haunted me everywhere I went.

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The impact of IVF on my insomnia

About 6 months after our daughter was born, we began trying to conceive again. Our daughter was an in vitro fertilization (IVF) baby, and so we were not surprised when we had to turn to IVF again for another child.

This time though, it was a lot more difficult and I suffered 2 early miscarriages, followed by a twin pregnancy that ended abruptly at the end of the first trimester. All of hormones from the medications required for IVF impacted my body temperature, my mood, and again, my ability to sleep.

I spent so much time and energy worrying during that period of time that it was impossible to relax enough to let my brain and I go to sleep.

Coping through these changes

It has been about a year and a half since we stopped IVF and trying to conceive, but I vividly remember all of these changes and how much they impacted my ability to deal with insomnia. Most of the time I felt like a walking zombie.

I still struggle with insomnia now, but our living child is 4 and a half years old and sleeps fairly well, giving me a good night window to get some rest or time during the day to nap when necessary.

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