Whatโ€™s hiding behind your postpartum hormone imbalance? 10 sources of toxicants and hormone disruptors that no one else is discussing

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

Have you been struggling with postpartum hormone imbalance? 


Symptoms that just won’t budge, sometimes years after you’ve given birth?


Immediately after birth, hormones feel like they’re all over the place. For the most part, postpartum hormone imbalance is a normal phase that gradually improves over the first year. 


However, if you’re one of the many women struggling with persistent postpartum hormone imbalance, you may feel the effects of unbalanced hormones for years after giving birth. 


Ongoing symptoms can be frustrating when you’re already health conscious—you live a low-tox lifestyle, avoid trigger foods, and even asked your doctor to run a full thyroid panel that came back normal. 


So, what gives? 


Let's talk about ten triggers for lingering symptoms that no one else is discussing.


Living near a golf course


You shop organic, watch out for glyphosate-containing foods, and use a high-quality water filter—but have you considered your neighborhood could be a source of toxicants? 


If you live on a golf course or near an agricultural zone, you may have chronic exposure to pesticides affecting your hormones. 


There is abundant literature on the detrimental effects of pesticide exposure on human health, even at low doses (1, 2, 3). 


While the literature clearly states the endocrine-disrupting effects of pesticides, most research is conducted on men and children, and there is a lack of data on the impact of pesticides on the female reproductive system. 


However, the available literature shows that exposure to pesticides can alter the menstrual cycle, including contributing to missed periods and heavy bleeding and contribute to female infertility (4). 


So, is it possible that the pesticide sprayed near your home could affect your postpartum hormone levels and be the source of fatigue, hair thinning, anxiety, and brain fog?  




In the US, up to 250 different pesticides are used on golf courses (5), meaning if you live near a green, you’re exposed to hundreds of potential endocrine disruptors. (In comparison, several European countries regulate golf course pesticide use to around 25 formulas.)


Chlorpyrifos is a widely used organophosphate insecticide recently banned from food products in 2022 due to the mounting evidence of the risks associated with exposure. However, it is still allowed on golf courses, tree farms, seed farms, tobacco farms, and as a general mosquito repellent (6). 


Animal studies have shown that exposure to chlorpyrifos induces insulin resistance and weight gain (7). Long-term exposure may also alter gut bacteria and increase leaky gut and systemic inflammation (8). 


Your vintage bathtub


If your aesthetic is less polished-golf-course-living and more charming historical, lead paint in bathtub glaze can be an overlooked contributor to postpartum hormone imbalance. 


We usually think about the risks of lead in infant and child development, but lead exposure can affect your health, too. 


Lead exposure has been linked to hormonal imbalance (9), mitochondrial damage (10), and fatty liver (11). 


Lead affects the female reproductive system and may indirectly affect the production of progesterone and estrogen via its effect on the pituitary gland’s synthesis of luteinizing hormone (12). 




Mold can be an insidious root cause of hormone imbalance that may be invisible to the naked eye and difficult to diagnose. 


In my practice, common red flags I look for regarding potential mold toxicity include: 

  • Living in an older home in a humid area
  • A history of water damage in the home or even suspecting this; sometimes, it’s not disclosed by the previous owner
  • Lingering symptoms despite doing everything right, especially vertigo, rash, and chronic stuffy nose/allergy-type symptoms 
  • Chronic fatigue-type symptoms 
  • Frequently getting sick and having difficulty recovering 
  • Collecting old books or vintage furniture (if these items are contaminated with mold spores, they can spread through your home) 

Beyond your home, mold exposure can come from foods like peanut butter, coffee, grains, and even dried fruit. 


Mycotoxins from mold may contribute to endocrine dysfunction, including infertility and reproductive cancers (13). 


If you’re worried mold might be the source of your postpartum hormone imbalance, but you don’t see any visible mold, a mold testing kit can help uncover hidden mold spores. 


Your postpartum immune system 


During pregnancy, your immune system goes through a remarkable shift to ensure your body can protect the developing baby from your immune system. 


At a cellular level, the mother's immune system shifts away from a pro-inflammatory Th1 response and favors an anti-inflammatory Th2 response (14). This immunological shift is one reason your OB instructed you to avoid soft cheese and lunch meat and encouraged you to take extra precautions with hygiene and sanitization—the changes in immune function mean a heightened risk of bacterial and viral infection. 


Fascinatingly, the shift away from a Th1 response is also why many women feel relief from their autoimmune symptoms during pregnancy. 


However, this shift only lasts for the duration of pregnancy. 


Postpartum, the immune system returns to a pre-pregnancy state, which can be a physiological shock, depending on the mother’s health status. 


Changes in the postpartum immune system can manifest as increased fatigue, inflammation, heightened susceptibility to postpartum mood disorders (15), and increased risk for developing postpartum autoimmune disease or flare-ups of known autoimmunity.


Fortunately, you can support your immune system with targeted nutrients, herbs, and probiotics. Postpartum immune support is something I help my clients with every day (link to offering). 



Gluten-free bread


You went gluten-free and initially felt great, but now you notice new symptoms seemingly coming out of nowhere. If this sounds familiar, you may unknowingly be exposed to toxic heavy metals with the 


For example, rice, a common ingredient in gluten-free flour, often has high arsenic, lead, and cadmium (16).


Arsenic contamination is widespread in rice, and levels often exceed the acceptable limit set for drinking water (17). Exposure to arsenic can affect metabolism, potentially triggering weight gain and insulin resistance (18). 


A 2021 study of 270 postmenopausal women found that women who tested high for arsenic were significantly more likely to gain weight. More specifically, “For every 10 unit increase in arsenic, the odds of being obese increased by a factor of 19.01 (19).”


Luckily, there are ways to reduce your arsenic exposure from rice: 

  1. Rinse rice well and cook it like pasta, then drain. Cooking rice with extra water helps remove 40-60% of arsenic (20). 
  2. Choose rice grown in California, which may have lower levels of arsenic than rice grown in other areas (21). 
  3. Rotate your gluten-free grains—millet, oats, buckwheat, and quinoa are all options that are usually low in arsenic. 


Missing out on sunlight


The first few years postpartum can be a whirlwind, resulting in you making significant sacrifices to your self-care routine. 


Some days, getting everyone out of the house is like herding cats, making it challenging to stick to the routine you had pre-baby. 


I felt the full burden of this with my second baby. 


She was born in September, so I stayed indoors for the final months of my pregnancy—I was so hot and uncomfortable every time I ventured out into the July and August heat. 


But then I missed the last weeks of Summer and the final light of Fall because I was recovering postpartum. I didn’t see the sun from July to March and acutely experienced the effects on my mood, energy, and sleep schedule.


Less time spent outside means you may not get enough sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels and help regulate your circadian rhythm. 


The result? Extra-low energy, achy muscles (22), and trouble sleeping (23).


Being deficient in vitamin D can even lower your libido (24) and, unfortunately, increase mood swings (25). 


If you feel low vitamin D might be causing your postpartum hormone imbalance, we can check your levels along with vitamin D-associated organs and cofactors (did you know your kidneys and/or your magnesium levels influence vitamin D??) and supplement if needed in the way that’s best for you.


Many women (including me!) feel so much better when vitamin D comes back into balance. But proper supplementation is vital—too much vitamin D can tax the liver and negatively affect bone density.


Fragrances in “natural products”


Did you know that scented products often contain endocrine-disrupting toxicants called phthalates—even if they are marketed as “natural” or “sustainable”?


In the last ten years, brands have learned that consumers are more interested in buying green personal care and cleaning products, and their marketing strategy has followed consumer interest. 


The problem is that many of these products don’t live up to the hype. This is called “greenwashing,” and it is becoming increasingly common. 


Many “holistic” products, from candles to shampoo to detergent, still contain endocrine-disrupting toxicants, especially if you see “fragrance” on the ingredient list. 


“Fragrances” is code for phthalates (26), the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have recently made headlines for their harmful effects on human health. 


Once in your bloodstream, phthalates interfere with normal hormonal pathways by binding to estrogen and androgen receptors (27). They are thought to contribute to infertility and may cause your body to hold on to fat stores. A 2023 longitudinal study confirmed that phthalates are linked to rapid body fat gain, especially for women who previously had a lower BMI (28). 


Reduce your exposure to phthalates by avoiding “fragrance,” or look for products that guarantee they are phthalate-free. 


The Environmental Working Group has a blog dedicated to phthalates, and you can find trusted, safe beauty and bath products here (including an EWG-verified fragrance!). 


Your bougie chocolate


As a self-professed chocolate snob, I was shocked when I learned that my go-to organic chocolate contained high levels of toxic heavy metals. 


When it comes to chocolate, organic doesn’t guarantee that it is free from contaminants like cadmium and lead. 


According to Consumer Lab, brands like AlterEco, Navitas, and Lindt contain high levels of cadmium exceeding acceptable limits. While occasionally enjoying these might not be a cause of concern, choosing brands with lower cadmium can help reduce your exposure if you’re a chocolate lover. 


Avoiding excess cadmium is vital to postpartum hormone imbalance because new research has shown that it can upregulate inflammatory cytokines in the pancreas, affecting insulin production. 


This can lead to blood sugar dysregulation and heightened systemic inflammation, meaning more fatigue, hair loss, and anxiety (29). 

Your period products (or even your yoga pants)


Everything in your makeup bag is probably toxin-free, but what about your period panties?


A recent study by scientists at the University of Notre Dame found that feminine products like pads, tampons, period underwear, and reusable pads contained very high levels of perfluorinated substances (PFAs) (the “forever chemicals” found in Teflon pans). 


Some of these products contained excessive amounts of fluorine (a component of PFAs) that amounted to almost 10% of the product (30). 


Unfortunately, the same PFAs issue can be true of popular yoga pants, so please do your research before purchasing a new pair of leggings.


PFAs affect multiple endocrine organs, including the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands (31). 


According to one of the researchers, avoiding these products may be prudent for reducing exposure to PFAs (32). 


Generational toxicity


If you’ve made it through this list without checking any boxes and are still uncertain about why you’re experiencing postpartum hormone symptoms, you may want to consider generational toxicity. 


Generational toxicity refers to toxicity you inherited from your parents, grandparents, etc. 


When your mother was pregnant with you, and her mother was pregnant with her, toxicants were passed from mother to baby (33). This includes synthetic chemicals like phthalates, pesticides, BPA, and even mercury.  


Generational toxicity is more than maternal exposure—even the toxicants your father was exposed to before conception may affect how your DNA is expressed (34).


A final thought about postpartum hormone imbalance


If you’re reading through this list with increasing anxiety about the building list of potential toxicants you might be exposed to each day, stop and take a deep breath. 


I didn’t write this with the intention of fearmongering. Instead, I hope to empower and validate you. 


It’s so easy to become overwhelmed! But taking small steps to reduce exposure is the best place to start. 


The more challenging part is finding the exact triggers contributing to your symptoms and strengthening your body to more easily balance hormones and eliminate any toxicants affecting your health.


That’s where I come in! 


I love helping my clients overcome symptoms they can’t seem to shake and that stump other clinicians. 


Click here to schedule a free Meet Dr. B call—we’ll discuss your experience, symptoms, and solutions so you can start feeling like yourself again.







  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9521041/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8791758/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1524969/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36863589/ 
  6. https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/frequent-questions-about-chlorpyrifos-2021-final-rule#question-7
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26162960/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371608/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35916450/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34334556/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36311639/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35916450/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37755941/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3376705/ 
  15. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006322312009869
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7663342/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10375490/#ref15
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9150370/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8323941
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26515534/
  21. https://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice/
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3319727/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213953/
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27544743/
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18761297/
  26. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40201-021-00783-x
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34774661/)
  28. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36341787/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33508533/
  30. https://news.nd.edu/news/scientists-find-pfas-in-feminine-hygiene-products/#:~:text=Relatively%20high%20total%20fluorine%20levels,over%20100%2C000%20parts%20per%20million
  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34774661/
  32. https://www.acs.org/pressroom/newsreleases/2023/august/indicator-of-pfas-found-in-some-but-not-all-period-products.html
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4626367/
  34. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41585-022-00708-9