Guest post written by Emma Ciarleglio
I’d like to raise awareness for postpartum thyroid problems by telling my personal story.
Information About the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland plays a really important role in our bodies and produces the hormone T4 which is converted to T3. The T3 hormone directly influences our metabolism. If too much is secreted, we can develop hyperthyroidism and if too little is secreted, we can develop hypothyroidism. Both conditions can cause a whole range of unwanted symptoms and can even be potentially life threatening if left untreated.
I developed hypothyroidism which was found completely by chance a few months after the birth of my first baby.
One day I woke up and noticed a lump at the front of my neck. After showing it to my family and discussing it with them, I promptly booked a doctor’s appointment which then led to blood tests and neck scans at the hospital.
Having known very little about thyroid conditions, this was a really stressful time for me. You can’t help but think of all the horrible things it could be.
Fortunately, my first neck scan and then subsequent scans were clear and showed my thyroid to be inflamed but thankfully, nothing more sinister than that. I was so relieved!
My blood tests however, showed that I was suffering with hypothyroidism. Upon having more blood tests, we found out that this was caused by an autoimmune reaction called Hashimoto’s disease and I was placed on hormone replacements and had to be tested every 6 weeks until my levels were right.
The doctors in the hospital said that they had rarely seen levels as bad as mine and told me that had I not been treated quickly, my symptoms could have become much worse and I could even have ended up in a coma.
I really want to help stop this happening to someone else, particularly new mothers, because after you have a baby the symptoms of hypothyroidism/hashimoto’s disease can be exactly the same as normal postpartum symptoms.
I felt constantly exhausted and freezing cold all the time but as I was a first time mum, I thought I was just really tired because I had a newborn baby to look after. I had also read that your hair falls out postpartum which was another of my symptoms. Had I not seen the lump I would have just continued thinking the exaggerated symptoms were normal.
I have been told that there is a small chance that as the tests show my antibodies are now reducing, my condition may eventually be labelled ‘postpartum thyroiditis’ instead of Hashimoto’s disease but they can’t say for sure and I will most likely remain on hormone replacements for the rest of my life.
Now that I know more about the thyroid and what an immensely important role it plays in our bodies, I wish postpartum thyroid levels were checked for every woman. Unfortunately, this probably won’t happen anytime soon and I have come to realise that we need to be in charge of our own health and if we don’t feel well, keep going back and seeing the Doctor until you get an answer. We can’t allow ourselves to be fobbed off if we know there is something wrong.
If you’ve had a baby recently (or even if you haven’t) and you feel any of these symptoms listed below, please go to the Doctor and request tests, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Pregnancy can wreak havoc on our bodies and we need to stay happy and healthy so that we can look after our babies.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism
- Difficulty losing weight/weight gain
- Matted dry hair
- Hair loss
- Cold intolerance
- Aching muscles
- Memory loss
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Decreased libido
*Hypothyroidism can be misdiagnosed as postpartum depression if not checked for properly.
A healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce the symptoms of thyroid problems and Hashimoto’s Disease and I spent a lot of time researching the best way to help myself get better. Together with my prescribed hormones and my modified diet, I am living mostly symptom free.
For more information on thyroid conditions you can visit The British Thyroid Foundation
With love, Em x