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Thread: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

  1. #1
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    Question Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    Hello,

    I feel like it has been quite a while since I posted here. My daughter recently weaned herself after 3 years 8 months and 19 days of nursing. I let her self-wean and with the exception of her asking to "try for milk" once since then, we have been done. I still miss nursing terribly but I can accept that she is growing up and that she is done.

    However, in the last few months before weaning completely I was getting weird symptoms that all pointed toward hypothyroidism. I had blood work done and I am definitely hypothyroid. I also requested to have my antibody levels checked on my last blood test and I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease which is causing my hypothyroidism.

    Treatment began with levothyroxine which made me very itchy on the lowest dose (25mcg) and then very ill on the 50mcg when they increased my dose. I had 2 migraines a day (I usually get 1-2 headaches a year) and I was itchy along with a bunch of other side effects.

    After talking to many different people I asked to be switched to Armour and my headaches pretty much went away except for recently when I got my period. This is the first time getting my period since switching meds. I also have very tender breasts. I feel as if I would have when I was full with milk but my breasts are not full of milk...just very uncomfortable.

    So, I started searching my symptoms online to see if it was a side effect from my new meds and I keep coming up with something called estrogen dominance. Particularly, estrogen dominance associated with moms who have weaned after extended nursing. Has anyone heard of this?

    I have been trying to deal with my Hashimotos by slowly going gluten-free. But, now reading about women who have estrogen dominance who were treated with progesterone and who have had their Hashimotos go away...I am wondering if I need to get tested.

    I have a call into my gyno after my local gp pushed me that way. From what I have read, estrogen dominance can affect your ovulation (we are hoping to get pregnant again), and if left untreated can increase your risk of breast cancer. My gram died of breast cancer and I have very fibrous breast tissue normally. I have also heard that carrying extra abdominable fat can increase the estrogen levels too which I do fight with. But, my doctor said my TSH was so high he said my metabolism was probably at a stand-still.

    I am just looking for any info and if anyone has ever heard of this with extended nursing. Thanks so much!!! This forum is amazing and has helped me so much over the years! <3

    Jaime
    Jaime
    First time mommy to Lucy Madison, born 8/25/2010.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    I don't think there's much, if any, real data about estrogen dominance. To my knowledge, it remains a relatively untested hypothesis that has nevertheless attracted passionate adherents, particularly among those who favor a so-called "natural" approach to medicine.

    I'm not sure I buy a connection between estrogen dominance and extended breastfeeding. If estrogen dominance is a bit of a theoretical stretch, then the link to extended nursing is even more tenuous. And I don't understand why anyone would think it likely- if anything, nursing damps down on your estrogen levels.

    IIRC, you have not been taking replacement thyroid hormone for very long. Maybe... 6 months or even less? If so, I think I would try to embrace more patience. In my experience, it takes time- a significant amount of time!- for your body to return to normal after a long period of being hypothyroid.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    IS the theory that weaning after natural length length nursing (2-7 years) would cause a hormonal imbalance issue, but weaning earlier than that does not? Or that weaning period causes an hormonal imbalance?

    Abrupt and premature weaning is linked to depression in some mothers, and this is linked in part to the drop in prolactin levels is my understanding: http://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/weaning_mom/ I think this could possibly occur at any age or weaning method depending on the mom, certainly I talk to moms all the time who are experiencing sadness and sometimes, more severe mood issues after their child weans even if the child is older and the weaning was clearly child led. This hormonal issue is considered temporary.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    My impression was that an event (weaning, child-birth, menopause) causes estrogen levels to soar. I know that in menopause they are supposed to drop but some suggested menopause too. This shift in hormones and increased estrogen causes a variety of symptoms. I have also read that it was probable cause that this estrogen surge can cause Hashimotos and in turn hypothyroidism. I am not sure if any of this is accurate though. That is why I am seeking info. I read many posts from moms who breast-fed for a length of time that stated that they had this after weaning. Again, not sure if that is true. We slowly weaned until it was just night-time nursing before ending...before that it was night and morning, and before that it was night, morning and nap. We dropped the session before dinner quite a while ago.

    My gyno told me to take Vitamin E 400iu twice a day and to make sure I am wearing a fitted bra.

    However, today I am still feeling full and sore but I am wondering if I am leaking. I just put tissue in my bra to see if I notice anything. My nipples looked like there was something dried on them and a few times I thought I felt wet but shrugged it off as being sweaty from the heat. If for some reason I could be lactating again, what should I do? Should I try to pump? We actually weaned because my daughter said there was no milk left. I actually thought about putting her on to see if she got anything and to see if I felt relief. But, I am not sure if that is the right thing to do so I might just pull out my pump. Could my milk supply be coming back since my thyroid is now being treated?

    Any suggestions? I have never had mastitis...but, if I am producing milk can I get it if I do not do something? I do not feel any blocked ducts yet but I keep feeling more uncomfortable.

    Also, for the first year of nursing I took Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle as recommended by my lactation consultant. After the first year, I continued the Fenugreek until she was 2 since I was afraid my supply would drop and that was my final goal. Could either of those supplements helped/hurt my thyroid. Until recently, the only time my thyroid was tested was when I was about 2 months pregnant and it was fine my doctor said. So, if pregnancy possibly triggered my hypothyroidism could either of those have helped me? The lactation consultant I spoke to yesterday told me that if I was hypothyroid and untreated I probably would not have produced much milk. But, I told her that I took supplements to help with that. My daughter was gaining weight normally after birth but when she was spitting up her ped told me I was over-feeding her and to time my nursing sessions. I listened to him and my supply plummeted. I had to switch nurse, take supplements and I pumped after every nursing session to get my supply back up to the point that I was producing 7 oz in the morning and about 5 each other session throughout the day. But, I was always afraid my supply would drop without the supplements so I stayed on them.

    Any thoughts?
    Jaime
    First time mommy to Lucy Madison, born 8/25/2010.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    My impression was that an event (weaning, child-birth, menopause) causes estrogen levels to soar.
    Depends on the event!!!! Estrogen levels rise during puberty and pregnancy. They usually drop fairly low right after birth, gradually rebounding to a pre-pregnancy norm. Weaning is unlikely to cause a large increase in estrogen when it takes place gradually- as it would when a mom weans a toddler who has already transitioned to a majority- solids diet. During menopause, estrogen levels will fall and remain low.

    I have also read that it was probable cause that this estrogen surge can cause Hashimotos and in turn hypothyroidism.
    This seems highly unlikely to me. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition, not a hormonal one. The damage to the thyroid is caused by your immune system inappropriately attacking your thyroid gland. The leading hypothesis for the cause of the inappropriate attack is that it begins with a minor illness, caused by some unknown pathogen (a virus or bacteria). That pathogen has a protein on its exterior that is similar to one that is located in the thyroid. Your immune system does its job and kills off the pathogen, but then it encounters the same protein in your thyroid and begins to target it, as well. Result: inflammation and destruction of the thyroid.

    I read many posts from moms who breast-fed for a length of time that stated that they had this after weaning.
    I think this is a case of people mistaking correlation for causality. Hashimoto's and hypothyroidism are uncommon in very young women but become increasingly common as women move through their reproductive years. Pregnancy itself is a risk factor for hypothyroidism; approximately 1-5% of women experience postpartum thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid in the year following pregnancy) and a certain percentage of those women do go on to become permanently hypothyroid.

    However, today I am still feeling full and sore but I am wondering if I am leaking. I just put tissue in my bra to see if I notice anything. My nipples looked like there was something dried on them and a few times I thought I felt wet but shrugged it off as being sweaty from the heat. If for some reason I could be lactating again, what should I do?
    Are you possibly pregnant? That would be by far the most likely reason for you to experience breast tenderness, fullness, and leaking. The dried stuff on the nipple could easily be colostrum... If I were you, I would drop by the drugstore and pick up a pregnancy test.

    If you aren't pregnant, then this is probably nothing. It's normal to see some milk for as much as a year after weaning. And there's nothing you need to do about this except watch and wait. While mastitis can and does occur in non-nursing women, and even in non-lactating breasts, it is not at all common and I don't think you need to worry!

    Also, for the first year of nursing I took Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle as recommended by my lactation consultant. After the first year, I continued the Fenugreek until she was 2 since I was afraid my supply would drop and that was my final goal. Could either of those supplements helped/hurt my thyroid
    Not to my knowledge. Especially not the fenugreek- it's a common culinary herb consumed by millions of people. However, I think it's a good idea to be suspicious of herbal supplements. The industry is almost unregulated and IMO you should never be entirely trusting of the contents of those bottles.

    The lactation consultant I spoke to yesterday told me that if I was hypothyroid and untreated I probably would not have produced much milk. But, I told her that I took supplements to help with that.
    I agree with the LC. The supplements you took are not efficacious enough to make up for hypothyroidism.

    If you were tested during pregnancy and produced plenty of milk up until the time your pediatrician convinced you to adopt a detrimental breastfeeding strategy, the most likely explanation for your thyroid problem is that something happened in the postpartum year. Maybe you got Hashimoto's, or maybe you already had Hashimoto's and it accelerated after the birth of your child.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*mommal View Post

    IIRC, you have not been taking replacement thyroid hormone for very long. Maybe... 6 months or even less? If so, I think I would try to embrace more patience. In my experience, it takes time- a significant amount of time!- for your body to return to normal after a long period of being hypothyroid.
    Fwiw: I found it took quite some time for my TSH levels to regulate after I started taking replacement hormone for hashimoto's. And then I went & got pg which required another round of "settling." And then after I gave birth, my thyroid went completely wonky & I ended out with Grave's disease for a while (autoimmune hyperthyroidism). Now, I'm back to hypo.

    My point is that the thyroid is a tricky little lady. And both your TSH levels & the side effects of the replacement hormones take a while to get right! But once things were regulated (and hopefully once they are again) I felt like a million bucks. I hope the same is true for you!!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    I really cannot speak to most of these questions, It's beyond my knowledge. Some of these questions are for a doctor, and The possible side effects of herbs you could perhaps discuss with an herbalist.

    But as far as normal nursing, while yes I agree it is pretty common and normal for the breasts to produce some milk long after weaning, I think that if you are starting to make lots more milk when there is no breast stimulation, I would wonder why that is. Whether meds would do this when there is and has been no breast stimulation for a while I am not sure. As far as what to do about it, I think that depends on why and how much this is happening. But it sounds as if you are unsure if what you are feeling IS milk production. Can you try hand expressing or pumping just a little, one time, and seeing if milk expresses or not? That would give you a clearer picture at least.
    How long has it been since you nursed your child, pumped, or hand expressed?

    Also as far as I am aware, there is absolutely no evidence that long term nursing causes any ill effects or abnormal hormonal responses for mother after a child weans. It also makes no sense biologically.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; June 27th, 2014 at 01:44 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    So...I am trying to pump and I am getting a white/yellowish substance that sticks to the nipple. Could this be an infection from not expressing? I stopped and wiped myself and I can see more in the nipple. I wish I was pregnant but just had my period (ending now). Should I still take a test? Just put the pump back on (on low) and more of that stuff is coming out. It is not liquidy..ut just sticks to the nipple. =(

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    What you describe sounds more like involution milk- that is, the milk which is produced at the very end of lactation. It's typically high in salt and protein and very low in sugar and water. It looks thick and yellowish-white, and quantities tend to be quite scanty. If you keep expressing/pumping, you're going to stimulate increased production. Is that what you want?
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Estrogen Dominance after Extended Nursing?

    I only pumped because the nurse at my gynecologist's office and our local lactation told me I could since I feel very uncomfortable. We really stopped nursing because my daughter said the milk was all gone. That was right around the time I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimotos. My first treatment with Levothyroxine made me sick but now that I am on Armour I am feeling better. Except I had really bad breast tenderness/soreness that makes me feel like I did when I was nursing and was running late on a feeding. Very uncomfortable and full feeling. I also thought I was leaking today. They said that possibly my thyroid is functioning better again and my milk is coming back in. They said I could pump to see and to relieve some of the discomfort. She did say though that if I did not want to keep nursing I could slow on the pumping until it goes away.

    I loved nursing my daughter and would have kept on nursing her but as she said it...the milk went away. Because it seemed like she didn't want to stop. But, she would try and say...no milk. I have never had mastitis and my fear was that I was getting blocked ducts somehow since I am so uncomfortable. I have been changing my diet and trying to go gluten free to help with the Hashimotos but that has been recent. The doctor's office also suggested I have my prolactin levels checked too. Lactation said that high prolactin might be halting my ability to get pregnant too. So, now with the uncomfortableness, I am not sure what I am supposed to do.

    I thought that maybe it was an infection because of the full feeling. It actually kind of reminded me of when I had blocked ducts before and worked them out. I just wish I knew what to do
    Jaime
    First time mommy to Lucy Madison, born 8/25/2010.

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