Expectant mothers worry more about postpartum depression than postpartum thyroiditis. Yet this thyroid condition is a serious condition to watch for after delivery. Even though you may never have suffered thyroid problems, the condition can develop during the postpartum phase. Learn more about this disease as well as the available postpartum thyroiditis treatment right now.
All You Need to Know About Postpartum Thyroiditis
In this article:
- Understanding Postpartum Thyroiditis
- What are the Warning Signs?
- Important Symptoms to Know
- How Long Does Postpartum Hypothyroidism Last?
- What Treatment for Postpartum Thyroiditis is Available?
- Postpartum Thyroiditis and Breastfeeding
Understanding Postpartum Thyroiditis
In women who develop the condition, the thyroid becomes inflamed. This happens sometime in the first year after delivering a baby. Scientists still are not exactly sure why some women develop this thyroid dysfunction. It is especially unpredictable for those who do not have a history of thyroid problems. Researchers suspect some women carry an autoimmune thyroid predisposition, which is later triggered by pregnancy and labor.
Your doctor will confirm a suspected case of postpartum thyroiditis through blood tests. These tests measure the levels of two hormones, known as TSH and thyroxine. If the levels are not where they should be, a follow-up test can verify the diagnosis.
For most women, the symptoms go away on their own within 18 months. But that does not mean you should not seek treatment. The condition can be debilitating without medical support. It’s also important to track postpartum thyroiditis’ progress. It can develop into a permanent thyroid disorder in some women.
What Are the Warning Signs?
Some women are more at risk than others for postpartum thyroiditis. These include women with a personal or family history of thyroid problems. Previous postpartum thyroiditis is another risk factor. Diabetes and other autoimmune conditions can also leave you vulnerable. High amounts of anti-thyroid antibodies in your blood work additionally raise concerns.
It is not unusual for new mothers to suffer minor to severe postpartum depression. Doctors now suspect a link with postpartum thyroiditis. But often, there are no warning signs before symptoms begin. (Of course, even if you have some risk factors, you may not develop the condition.)
Important Symptoms to Know
Whether you have a known risk for postpartum thyroiditis or not, it’s helpful to watch for signs. There are often two stages of the condition. Each carries separate symptoms. It is important to know when to check thyroid levels after pregnancy.
The first stage would not usually happen right after delivery. Between one to four months after childbirth is more typical. During this phase, the thyroid hormone in your system increases. This excess hormone will give you symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism. These include weight loss, shaking, feeling hot, insomnia, and heart palpitations. You are also more likely to feel frustrated or nervous.
The second stage takes hold between four to eight months after delivery. During this time, the symptoms often resemble hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. It is common to feel colder than normal, as well as tired and confused. Physical problems include constipation, dry skin, and general achiness.
You may have noticed one obvious problem with this list of potential postpartum thyroiditis symptoms. Many mirrors what you might go through while caring for a newborn. That’s why the condition often goes unreported. Do you suspect something other than sleepless nights and a tough delivery is happening? If so, talk to your doctor.
How Long Does Postpartum Hypothyroidism Last?
Taken together, the two stages of postpartum hypothyroidism can last anywhere between five to 18 months. 12 to 18 months is typical. The range is broad because each of the two phases has its own set of variables. In rare cases, the condition does not go away. Instead, it turns into hypothyroidism, a more pronounced version of the second phase.
What Treatment for Postpartum Thyroiditis is Available?
Postpartum thyroiditis can affect new mothers in many ways. For that reason, treatment options also vary. Often, women with the condition do not need medication. This is usually the case for women with mild to moderate symptoms. It also includes new mothers for whom the condition goes away on its own, as is normal. But for severe cases or prolonged cases, doctors prescribe medication.
In the earlier phase of postpartum thyroiditis, overactive thyroid is usually the problem. If needed, a beta blocker can help shield your system from its effects.
In the later phase of postpartum thyroiditis, some women have severe symptoms. Or the condition might not go away on its own. If this happens with you, your doctor may put you on synthetic hormone therapy for up to a year. You will take blood tests while receiving hormone therapy. Your doctor will also monitor you after you finish taking it. Your medical team will be watching in case you develop hypothyroidism. If that happens, you will need further treatment.
Postpartum Thyroiditis and Breastfeeding
Many mothers with this thyroid condition worry about its impact on breastfeeding. How will it affect the milk supply? Will medications cross into the breast milk?
Postpartum thyroiditis can affect milk supply. In the earlier, overactive thyroid stage, milk may actually increase. This happens as the hormones surge. For some women, the milk supply stays the same. Others report problems with let-down reflex during this hyperthyroid stage.
As it moves into the underactive, hypothyroid phase, milk supply often dwindles. The reasons for this are usually a physical response to the condition. The depression under-active thyroids create can also result in milk supply problems. Be prepared to supplement as needed.
Medication for postpartum thyroiditis is rarely a factor with breastfeeding. First, not all patients receive hormone therapy or other medication.
Second, the prescribed medicine the mother takes is usually safe for nursing babies. Doctors favor propranolol over other beta blockers. This type of beta blocker is less concentrated in breast milk, but asking your doctor about any medicine you take while nursing is always smart.
Need a more personal experience regarding thyroid problems after pregnancy? Watch this vlog from beingmommywithstyle.
Were you recently diagnosed with this thyroid condition? Remember that you are not alone. Online forum members can share their postpartum thyroiditis stories with you. You may be experiencing emotional fallout for the condition. Your doctor may be able to put you in contact with a local support group. And above all, stay in contact with your medical team to receive the best postpartum thyroiditis treatment.
Remember, if you show postpartum thyroiditis symptoms, talk to your doctor to get the right tests. Don’t hesitate to share your questions with us as well and we’ll try to answer them as best as we can.