Postpartum Thyroiditis

03 June 2009

Postpartum Thyroiditis (PPT) is a thyroid condition that effects at least 5-10% within one year of having their babies. I have trained as an apprentice midwife, am a childbirth educator, and serve women as a doula, but until January of this year I had not heard of the condition. PPT is easily written off as postpartum depression, fatigue associated with having a new baby, and common anxiety of being a new Mom. Women are told their thyroid panel numbers look normal, and are sent home with instructions to try to get some more rest.

My own struggles with PPT landed me in my CNP's office wanting answers. I knew I was not struggling with postpartum depression, and I had a laundry list of symptoms that pointed to my thyroid. I was told "my numbers were pretty normal," but we didn't stop there. I began to scour the internet, and email my care provider links to articles I found that were significant. After finding a goiter (enlarged thyroid), scanning for nodules on the goiter, and continually monitoring my numbers we came to the conclusion that I did in fact have PPT.

Postpartum thyroiditis has only been recognized in the last 15-20 years, and still to this day many mainstream doctors do not acknowledge it's effect on postpartum women. Postpartum thyroiditis is incredibly hard to diagnose, because it presents itself differently in different women. Sometimes there is a hyperthyroid phase and then the thyroid returns to normal. Other times there is only a hypothyroid phase, and then there are those that go through a hyper phase to only shoot into hypo. Obviously this makes PPT difficult to identify and treat.

Here are symptoms from each phase*:

Signs and symptoms of the hyperthyroid phase:

- goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
- fatigue
- nervousness
- irritability
- feeling hot
- rapid heartbeat
- inability to concentrate
- trembling hands
- muscle weakness
- weight loss

Signs and symptoms of the hypothyroid phase:

- goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
- fatigue
- depression
- poor memory
- feeling cold
- constipation
- muscle cramps
- difficulty losing weight

Once my CNP diagnosed me as having PPT I began a regimen of bovine glandular supplements and vitamins. Within just a few weeks I felt dramatically different, and my symptoms began to disappear. Another problem with PPT is that it is incredibly difficult to treat, because the thyroid "bounces" between being hyper and hypo. Many doctors start patients on Synthroid or Armour, but that can give patients horrible hyperthyroid symptoms.

Here is the following list of supplements I took under the guidance of my health care provider:

- Raw Thyroid - supports the thyroid gland whether you're hyper or hypo.
- All Adrenal - adrenal glands can become quickly taxed if the thyroid is struggling
- Cod Liver Oil - has omegas and a lot of vitamin D (see my CLO post)
- B Complex - super vitamin that helps balance emotions, strengthen nervous system, prevent anemia
- Prenatals
- Kelp - good source of iodine which is needed for body to function properly
- Magnesium - aids in digestion, helps me sleep better

*Excellent Article: Post Partum Thyroiditis

Side note: If you have suspected thyroid problems, but your tests come back normal please continue to be your own advocate. You can buy a basal body thermometer at any drugstore. Consistently take your temperature first thing in the morning before doing anything, and write down your temperatures. If your body temp is consistently below 97.6 degrees there is a significant chance you have a thyroid condition. Take these numbers to a doctor, and insist on being heard. It may take going to more than one doctor, but it's important to be treated if you have a thyroid problem.

6 comments:

The Braaten Family said...

Good website to add - www.stopthethyroidmadness.com

Oh and fatigue...try non-functioning ability to keep your eyes open and a huge weight of exhaustion laying heavily on your body. How's that? LOL.

I think its also important to note that one can have one, a few, all or none of these symptoms. Thyroid symptoms are so unique to the person affected. For ex - my hair falls out and my fingernails break super easily.

Frugal Wellness said...

Yes, www.stopthethyroidmadness.com is a great website! However, I am surprised they don't have more information re: PPT on their site. The laundry list of symptoms for a over (hyper) or under (hypo) active thyroid is very, very long. If you're a few months (or even years) out from having a baby, and are struggling to lose or gain weight, are exhausted, and experience mood significant swings please see the STTM website!

Thanks for posting, Meredith. You have an interesting story concerning your thyroid function after the birth of your oldest child. More women need to talk about this condition, and not make generalizations about new moms and their struggles! :)

Candimom said...

This is interesting! I've noticed (actually Keith noticed) that after having a baby I tend to have a cycle of some of these symptoms at different times, especially feeling weak at times and mood swings that also tend to coincide with my cycle. Niccole, how does this go along with or affect PMS symptoms? Also, I'm curious as to who your CNP is! I would love to have someone for my family who is open to natural remedies and such!

Frugal Wellness said...

Candi -

I would highly suggest having your hormones checked. If you do a Google search for low progesterone symptoms you may find many of your symptoms on a list. Low progesterone and low thyroid symptoms can mirror each other, and sometimes if you struggle with one you struggle with the other.

Claudia said...

To my great and happy amazement after taking bovine thyroid within an hour I began to feel normal.

Krissy said...

Such a good post. Thank you for sharing! And so awesome you all mentioned STTM- I wish I had found it almost 4 years ago after my daughter was born, but I don't even know if the fb group existed then! I definately suspected thyroid problems after giving birth to my daughter- the hair loss is what really made me suspect it- it was severe- I was getting tiny bald spots on my temples! Tight feeling around neck, trouble swallowing, insomnia, cold intolerance, puffy cheeks, gain weight, rapid weight loss, constant throat clearing, sore throats, night sweats, hoarse voice, exhaustion, etc! All my symptoms escalated when my daughter was a few months old- I suddenly couldn't sleep at all and could hardly swallow. My family was ignorant and not very good support (and I was a single mom) and the few doctors I saw were ignorant as well. So, I ended up in the hospital after 5 weeks from symptoms of severe sleep deprivation! Adrenal fatigue from lack of sleep through my body into real true menopause (where you lose nurturing abilities and experience aging, etc) at 28! I did my best to be my own advocate with the doctors but I was just too unable to successfully do it all alone considering the extreme lack of sleep I was suffering from. If you want to read/follow my blog, I am sharing my story at www.postpartumtragedy.blogspot.com.

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