Breastfeeding: impact on oestrogen levels, the vagina and pelvic floor

A white balloon which is like a breast spills milk out onto a pink and coral abstract scape.

Oestrogen is incredibly high during pregnancy, contributing to the baby’s development and the creation of the milk ducting system.

As soon as the baby is out, oestrogen levels plummet to near menopausal levels, which leaves room for the milk-producing hormone, prolactin.

Prolactin levels stay high during nursing, however oestrogen levels stay low, which can cause some unexpected and unpleasant vaginal and pelvic floor symptoms.

Low oestrogen can result in a dry vagina, low libido, pelvic floor laxity/weakness and may prevent the return of normal periods. It can also result in vaginal microbiome problems, as oestrogen stimulates glycogen in vaginal cells, which is food for protective lactobacilli species.

Lactobacilli species are desirable vaginal microbes which keep pathogens away via several important mechanisms. If lactobacilli don’t have enough food (energy sources), their numbers will dwindle, leaving room for other microbes to take their place.

The result can be vaginal dysbiosis, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or aerobic vaginitis (AV). Symptoms can include odour, discharge, itching, burning and discomfort.

The pelvic floor muscles and tissue may become a little weaker, as the impact of oestrogen is strong on this area of the body. Be gentle and don’t try to jump right back into your normal exercise routine or strenuous activities – allow your body time to heal and only do what you feel you can.

Increasing systemic oestrogen levels during lactation with foods

Some foods contain phyto-oestrogens, which are 200-300 times weaker than human oestrogen, thus in a low oestrogen state, can provide a weak source of oestrogens – which might be better than nothing.

Searchable phyto-oestrogen containing foods list​1,2​

Plant species (Common name)μg/100 g dry weightLevels
Plum5Very Low
Wheat (white meal)8Very Low
Banana10Very Low
Apple12Very Low
Oatmeal13Very Low
Potato (peeled)16Very Low
Lentil23Very Low
Pea27Very Low
Cabbage33Very Low
Tritacle (meal)35Very Low
Wheat (wholegrain)36Very Low
Cabbage, Turnip-rooted43Very Low
Poppy seed51Very Low
Tritacle (wholegrain, wheat variant)52Very Low
Barley (wholegrain)80Low
Barley bran85Low
Onion91Low
Pistachio nut96Low
Beetroot100Low
Almond111Low
Cauliflower111Low
Rye meal (wholegrain)112Low
Wheat bran121Low
Hazelnut123Low
Paprika124Low
Rasberry139Low
Sharon145Low
Cabbage, Red160Low
Red currant165Low
Walnut173Low
Oat bran179Low
Witloof/Endive190Low
Cloudberry203Moderate
Caraway seed235Moderate
Chickpea/Garbanzo bean250Moderate
Black-eyed pea/Cow pea255Moderate
Cashew nut261Moderate
Rye bran299Moderate
Black gram bean361Moderate
Carrot (skin on)370Moderate
Garlic380Moderate
Kidney bean396Moderate
Black currant398Moderate
Peanut420Moderate
Broccoli451Moderate
American groundnut (potato bean)511Moderate
Pigeon pea517High
Clover seed518High
Zuccini (skin on)817High
Blueberry835High
Sesame seed852High
Cranberry1054High
Strawberry1210High
Lingonberry1510High
Tea, Yellow label tea-bag2591Very High
Sunflower seed2600Very High
Tea, Earl Grey tea (Oriental tea mixture)3212Very High
Kudzu leaf3371Very High
Tea, Pure Lapsang Souchong tea (China)3520Very High
Tea, China Gunpowder3672Very High
Pumpkin (peeled)3874Very High
Tea, Japan Sencha Green tea4075Very High
Tea, Nippon Sencha Green tea5565Very High
Tea, Prince of Wales, tea-bag5768Very High
Tea, China Green tea5965Very High
Tea, Green8000Very High
Black tea8500Very High
Soy bean88843Extremely High
Kudzu root197631Extremely High
Flaxseed370987Extremely High
Flaxseed (crushed)547300Extremely High

Hormone-free vaginal treatments for low oestrogen symptoms

My Vagina makes and stocks two excellent all-natural, drug free, hormone free, soothing pessaries that have a gentle oestrogenic effect on the vaginal tissue.

Studies​3,4​ show that fennel has activity when used vaginally to increase the function and thickness of vaginal epithelial cells.

The fennel and pomegranate promote glycogen production and strong, healthy vaginal cells. The moisturising effect comes from the sea buckthorn oil, a well-regarded vaginal moisturiser when used both internally and topically.

Recommended treatment is two weeks every night during sleep, then as needed.

Vaginal hormone therapy

Your doctor may prescribe a vaginal oestrogen cream. Talk to your practitioner about your symptoms and their recommended treatment.

References

  1. 1.
    Bacciottini L, Falchetti A, Pampaloni B, Bartolini E, Carossino A, Brandi M. Phytoestrogens: food or drug? Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2007;4(2):123-130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22461212
  2. 2.
    Mazur W, Adlercreutz H. Naturally occurring oestrogens in food. Pure and Applied Chemistry. Published online September 1, 1998:1759-1776. doi:10.1351/pac199870091759
  3. 3.
    Ghazanfarpour M, Shokrollahi P, Khadivzadeh T, et al. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Post Reprod Health. Published online October 8, 2017:171-176. doi:10.1177/2053369117733629
  4. 4.
    Yaralizadeh M, Abedi P, Najar S, Namjoyan F, Saki A. Effect of Foeniculum vulgare (fennel) vaginal cream on vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Maturitas. Published online February 2016:75-80. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2015.11.005


Original price was: USD $9.99.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
Original price was: USD $9.95.Current price is: USD $0.00. ex GST/VAT/TAX
Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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