It is well known that thyroid hormones are critical for development of the fetal and neonatal brain, as well as for many other aspects of pregnancy and fetal growth and also that hypothyroidism during the pregnancy results in fetal disease. So thyroid and pregnancy have a very strong connection.
What Happens After the Baby Was Born in the Post Pregnancy Period, Also Called Postpartum?
We know that the main cause for the changes that take place in the human body, are the hormones. Especially after pregnancy the hormones are fluctuating and this will result in many problems.
At such a time, a woman experiences high and low levels of hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, thyroid and androgens. Thanks to scientific studies and to the new breakthrough medical discovery we know now that thyroid hormone is the ideal solutions for many post pregnancy conditions.
Nearly all new mothers find that the weeks and months following the birth of a baby are difficult – most report some pains, worry over the baby’s health, sleep and feeding deprivation, anxiety (especially if the baby is not nursing well) fatigue, mental confusion, and the so called “baby blues.” These symptoms are normal and most of them in a few months are long gone.
But some women suffer more intense, longer-lasting postpartum problems that can threaten their own and their baby’s health – and these intense and long lasting problems may be directly related to the thyroid gland.
If you feel exhausted, depressed or if you are having trouble concentrating beyond the initial postpartum period, or you are really struggling more than other new mothers with debilitating fatigue and depression, hair loss, and other annoying problems, you should check your thyroid levels.
Postpartum thyroid difficulties are common – about 10% of women may suffer thyroid disordersafter giving birth. People that had never experienced thyroid problems can suffer of thyroid diseases.
What is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Postpartum thyroiditis is practically an painless inflammation of the thyroid that initially occurs in the first year after childbirth, miscarriage, or induced abortion. Postpartum thyroiditis is also considered a variation of autoimmune thyroiditis, known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Postpartum thyroiditis often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms are mistaken for postpartum depression – the exhaustion and moodiness that sometimes follow delivery. If the symptoms don’t disappear within a few months the problem needs medical treatment.
Until the last two decades, there has been little information available about postpartum thyroiditis; but recent research has demonstrated the need to recognize and to treat women suffering from this disorder.
What is the Course of Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Postpartum thyroiditis appears within the first year after delivery, usually from eight weeks to four months postpartum and the signs and symptoms can vary from woman to woman. Typically, the symptoms can be so mild that many women are unaware that they exist or accept them as a normal part of having a baby.
There are three postpartum thyroiditis courses.
1. Hyperthyroid followed by a return to normal thyroid function
During the hyperthyroid phase, the thyroid can’t control the release of thyroid hormone and too much thyroid hormone is released into the bloodstream.
Some women don’t experience any signs of hyperthyroidism and others can have one or more of the following symptoms:
- fatigue, depression;
- nervousness and irritability;
- inability to concentrate
- feeling hot;
- rapid heartbeat;
- muscle weakness;
- trembling hands;
- difficulty to gain weight.
The hyperthyroid phase lasts around eight weeks or until the thyroid hormone supply decreases and sometimes, the thyroid gland can recover and starts to work normally.
2. A hypothyroid phase.
The thyroid gland has been affected in the hyperthyroid phase and temporarily it is unable to produce enough hormones. This results in hypothyroidism – under-active Thyroid gland.
Some women with postpartum thyroiditis don’t even go through a hyperthyroid phase and they only develop hypothyroidism.
During this phase, a woman might have one or more of the following symptoms:
- depression and fatigue;
- poor memory;
- feeling cold;
- muscle cramps;
- losing weight difficulty.
This phase can begin between the 3rd and the 8th month after they gave birth and is usually lasting up to six to eight months. Around 30% of the women that have postpartum thyroiditis can have a permanent hypothyroidism.
3. A hyperthyroid phase that is followed by a hypothyroid phase.
What Causes the Postpartum Thyroiditis?
The postpartum thyroiditis seems to be caused by a problem with the immune system. It is also know that certain anti-thyroid antibodies like Thyroperoxidase or TPOab are often present in the bloodstream of women that develop postpartum thyroiditis.
This indicates the possibility that postpartum thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. When someone has an autoimmune disease, the immune system misidentifies the cells of normal body tissue as “invaders” and then produces antibodies to attack them.
When the woman is pregnant, in order to protect the baby her immune system is trying to avoid antibodies formation. After the baby is born the immune system will reactivate and will start to produce some antibodies that can affect the thyroid gland.
How is Postpartum Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
Hyperthyroidism will be diagnosed measuring the level of the thyroid hormones from the blood. If the analysis show a high level of T4 and a low TSH, the diagnostic will be confirmed. Your doctor can ask you to make a radioactive iodine uptake test, so he can decide if you are suffering of postpartum thyroiditis or of something else like Graves’ disease. If your uptake test result will be low, the postpartum thyroiditis diagnostic will be confirmed.
Radioactive iodine can also get into breast milk, therefore, a woman who is nursing will need to discontinue breast feeding for 3-5 days in order to protect de newborn.
Hypothyroidism can also be diagnosed by measuring thyroid hormone levels and in this case a highTSH and a low T4 level will confirm the diagnosis.
How is Postpartum Thyroiditis Treated?
Most women are relieved to know the reason for their postpartum discomfort and problems and also to find out that this problem is temporary and can be treated.
Women who have hyperthyroidism during postpartum thyroiditis do not require the same treatments as the women that have permanent forms of hyperthyroidism.
Treatment during the hypothyroid phase depends upon the severity of symptoms and how abnormal hormone levels are. Many endocrinologists prescribe thyroid hormones, in order to help restoring to normal thyroid hormone levels.
In order to determine if hypothyroidism is temporary or permanent, a woman must stop her thyroid hormones treatment for approximately four to six weeks in order to repeat the analysis. If the woman is one of the 30% that develops permanent hypothyroidism after postpartum thyroiditis, she has to continue her thyroid hormones treatment.
As a Conlusion…
Postpartum thyroiditis is a known disorder that previously has been untreated. Even if the symptoms are not permanent and not extreme, women are happy to find out that their symptoms are not only in their imagination, that they are not having a fatal disease, and that in order to relieve their discomfort, exists the thyroid hormonetreatment which is inexpensive and effective.
A thyroid gland that is functioning well is a healthy thyroid and this is important to everyone, especially to women.
The thyroid disorder can cause not only postpartum problems but also pregnancy problems. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can make it more difficult for you to get pregnant and also can seriously affect the baby.
Some of the problems that might occur are: early labor and premature babies, smaller babies, babies with brain development problems and heart problems, preeclampsia, anemia and abnormal bleeding after giving birth.
The presence of anti-thyroid antibodies can further complicate a woman’s health and also the health of her baby. Still, with some simple analysis and due to medical discovery the treatment is very simple. It consists in thyroid hormones that will restore the body to normal.