I gave birth to my second child in October 2013. She (along with my eldest daughter) has already filled my heart and my World with so much happiness and love that sometimes I think I just might burst! But along with immeasurable joy, bringing new life into the World has also brought with it an auto-immune nightmare. Just over six weeks ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid). Extreme fatigue, hair loss, severely aching muscles and joints, and carpel tunnel syndrome have wreaked havoc on my day-to-day life. Some days I struggle to even get out of bed… but I do, because I am a Mum and by extension that means that I have to! Prior to pregnancy I was a healthy woman, now my condition puts me at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
So what is happening to me?
Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition in which the thyroid, a small butterfly shaped gland at the base of the neck, becomes inflamed and fails to function as it should in the months following childbirth. As pregnancy causes great hormonal upheaval, women are at an increased risk of developing thyroid dysfunction during this time. Indeed, studies have shown that 1 in 12 women Worldwide will experience postpartum thyroiditis. And as with any medical condition, each woman will experience symptoms differently. Some may experience what has been termed the ‘classical form’ of postpartum thyroiditis; where symptoms of short-term hyperthyroidism (an over active thyroid) present initially, and are followed quickly by hypothyroidism symptoms. Others may experience isolated hyperthyroidism or isolated hypothyroidism.
It is early days for me and so I am not yet sure which form of thyroiditis I have. I am scheduled to see an endocrinologist later this month and will hopefully find out more (fingers crossed!). I am aware that some women recover fully within 12 – 18 months postpartum – a fact I am clinging onto – but my research has also found that almost half of the women diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis continue to experience symptoms for the rest of their lives.
So what about you? Do you suffer any of the following symptoms?
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
• Sudden weight loss
• Rapid heartbeat and palpitations
• Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
• More frequent bowel movements
• Muscle weakness
• Difficulty sleeping
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
• Unexplained weight gain
• Pale, dry skin
• Elevated blood cholesterol level
• Puffy face
• Increased sensitivity to cold
• Muscle aches and weakness
• Heavier than normal menstrual periods
• Brittle fingernails and hair
If this sounds like you, perhaps you should consider seeing your GP (local physician). A simple blood test to check your thyroid levels will give you a conclusive answer, one way or another. After-all knowledge is power! I wonder how many sick, tired women are out there today, not knowing that their thyroid is to blame?