Postpartum Struggles – Could It Be My Thyroid?
With all of the physical, mental, emotional, and lifestyle changes happening postpartum, it’s no wonder thyroid disease in new moms can go unnoticed.
Being a new mom is exhausting. Between sleepless nights, anxieties about raising a baby, and hormonal fluctuations – the struggle is REAL. Perhaps you are recovering from a C-section, having persistent breastfeeding challenges, or battling unexpected postnatal mother or baby concerns (such as infection or colic). Maybe you are trying to navigate what your maternity leave is going to look like, live far away from family support, or are planning when to go back to work. I mean, who wouldn’t be tired?
But in addition to the adjustments that come with having a baby, you may be struggling on a different level. You could be feeling down, exhausted, brain fogged, having difficulty losing weight, struggling to produce breast milk, or even experiencing hair loss.
These aren’t just a normal part of having a baby, but may be signs of hypothyroidism.
Many women suffer with undiagnosed thyroid issues after pregnancy, and they can easily go unnoticed in the first year postpartum. Symptoms are quickly chalked up to being a normal part of new motherhood. Without a diagnosis or treatment plan, a mom may feel miserable, alone, or even ‘crazy’ for feeling the way they do.
As a naturopathic doctor who has helped women get to the root cause of their thyroid concerns, I see the most complaints in postpartum women. When these women report “not feeling right” to their doctors, they are met with the response that “everything is fine, you just had a baby.” This is incredibly frustrating because these women are struggling and they aren’t being heard. These women DO NOT deserve to suffer in silence.
Symptoms you need to know for Postpartum Thyroid Disease
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Feeling hot all the time
- Heart palpitation: feeling a flutter or heaviness inside your chest
- Increase heart rate
- Inability to be still
- Weight loss
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Hypothyroidism:
- Brain fog (impaired memory & concentration)
- Dry skin
- Decreased milk supply
- Feeling cold
- Joint pain
A diagnosis of postpartum thyroiditis is based on your symptoms and thyroid lab tests
Not all women are routinely tested after their baby is born, but if women had elevated thyroid antibodies in pregnancy, it’s recommended to have thyroid testing within 3-6 months postpartum. If you’re saying YES to many of the above symptoms, consider having these lab tests done:
- TSH will be low in hyperthyroidism and high in hypothyroidism (optimal levels: 2-2.5 mU/L)
- Free T4 will be high in hyperthyroidism
- Free T3 might be low or normal in hypothyroidism
- Anti-TPO will be elevated in autoimmune thyroid disorders
Postpartum women have a higher risk of developing a postpartum thyroid condition if:
- History of a thyroid condition (before or during the current pregnancy or after a previous birth)
- History of high anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies before or during this pregnancy
- Postpartum depression either with the current pregnancy or after a previous birth
- History of an autoimmune condition (i.e. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, Type 1 Diabetes)
Women who develop postpartum thyroiditis usually have high anti-TPO antibodies early in pregnancy. These levels generally decrease as the pregnancy progresses, and then rise again after birth. So, this could be tested in early pregnancy and again after birth. A normal test doesn’t eliminate the risk of postpartum thyroiditis developing, but a positive test (high levels) increases the likelihood. So you’ll be prepared and know what to look out for!
Remember, you do NOT need to suffer in silence. If you feel like something is wrong, please reach out for help! Find someone who will listen to your struggles, and help you feel better so you can LOVE new motherhood!