Hey Mums – have you heard of postpartum thyroiditis? This is a condition which affects 1 in 20 women after giving birth and yet, it’s something that we aren’t talking about enough.

If you’re not quite feeling right after having your baby, this is definitely something worth chatting with your GP, midwife, maternal child health nurse or Naturopath about after having your baby.

Symptoms of a thyroid condition:

  • Extreme fatigue that just won’t go away no matter how much sleep/rest you get
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weight loss OR weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Dry skin
  • Reduced ability to exercise, or feeling unwell or tired after exercise
  • Constipation

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a hormonal gland located in our throat, just below the Adam’s Apple. It is responsible for controlling our metabolism, digestion, temperature, mood, heart, brain, hormones (they all work together)… basically, the thyroid affects every cell in our bodies! Which helps explain why it’s so important that your thyroid is functioning optimally, and how much of an effect thyroid dysfunction can have on you.

So what actually is Postpartum thyroiditis?

Postpartum thyroiditis is where the thyroid becomes inflamed after pregnancy, leading to irregular thyroid function, causing the symptoms listed above.

To fully understand thyroid function, you may find the following terms helpful.

Hyperthyroid – where thyroid hormones (T4 & T3) are high, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is low.

Symptoms: Anxiety, heart palpitations, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, weight loss, diarrhea.

Hypothyroid – where thyroid hormones (T4 & T3) are low, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is high.

Symptoms: Depression, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, reduced ability to exercise & feeling tired after exercise, constipation.

In Postpartum Thyroiditis, the thyroid can be moving between hyperthyroid & hypothyroid – which can make you feel over the place. Typically, hyperthyroidism is observed from about 6 weeks postpartum through to 6 months postpartum, where hypothyroidism generally kicks in and can then last for approximately 12 months after this. Some will only experience hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Postpartum Thyroiditis may lead to a life-long thyroid condition, or it may resolve. It is also common that in Postpartum Thyroiditis there are thyroid antibodies present, but this doesn’t happen for everyone. Thyroid antibodies are cells produced by our own body that attack the thyroid. You may have heard of conditions such as Graves Disease and Hashimoto’s which are two thyroid conditions where thyroid antibodies are present.

What are the risk factors of postpartum thyroiditis?

  • Postpartum thyroiditis from a previous pregnancy
  • Testing positive for thyroid antibodies in the 1st trimester of pregnancy
  • Having had a thyroid condition, or a thyroid that’s been slightly out of range prior to pregnancy.
  • Having a family history of a thyroid condition
  • Having Type 1 Diabetes.

If you suspect you may have a thyroid condition, what should you do?

Getting a blood test to see what’s happening with your thyroid is essential. Unfortunately, this just isn’t something that we can guess with. You can get a blood test by:

  • Letting your GP know that you’re concerned about your thyroid function & letting them know your current symptoms
    • This will likely lead you to having your TSH tested, but as we explored above, TSH doesn’t show the whole picture!
    • If your TSH comes back very out of range, your GP will refer you on for further thyroid testing to look at T4, maybe T3 and maybe thyroid antibodies
    • If your TSH comes back a little bit out of range, or out of optimal ranges but within standard reference ranges, your GP may take a ‘wait and see’ approach
    • You can request a copy of your blood results – I highly recommend doing this.
  • Talking to your Naturopath who works in this area & ordering a full thyroid panel to assess:
    • TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 & thyroid antibodies
    • While this includes an out of pocket expense, it’s a quicker way of getting to the bottom of what’s going on & provides more thorough analysis of what’s happening with your thyroid
    • In consultations in our Croydon clinic & online, I assess client’s blood tests looking specifically at optimal blood test ranges – this is helpful in reducing the likelihood of a thyroid issue being missed

If you are working with me or another Naturopath in this area and you come back with thyroid tests out of range, we are going to assess why this is happening for you.

We will assess:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Antibodies
  • Inflammation in the body
  • Gut health
  • Anything else specific to you & your journey.

Please note that regardless of if you explore your thyroid health with a GP or myself (or another Naturopath), combined care is often required to get on top of your thyroid condition. Your GP will be able to organise regular follow-up testing for you & manage any medications that may be required at this time.

Naturopathic treatment for Postpartum Thyroiditis:

When I’m working with clients for postpartum thyroiditis I’m looking at supporting their health holistically by working with them on:

  • Making dietary changes to support thyroid health (don’t worry – I do my best to make sure these are achievable & enjoyable for you)
  • Making lifestyle tweaks where possible to support thyroid health
  • Nutritional supplements to help your body come back into balance
  • Prescribing herbal medicines to support both their symptoms and their body to come back into balance
  • Identifying & working on any causative factors (outside of just having given birth) that could be contributing to the condition.

What can you do from home to support thyroid health?

If you suspect that you may have a thyroid condition, or you have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, it is important that you seek support from both a GP & Naturopath to ensure that you are best taken care of. If you don’t have any symptoms but are wanting to work on prevention you can:

  • Make sure you’re eating enough food and eating regularly
  • Eat good quality, nutritionally dense foods (limiting processed foods and choosing wholefoods where possible)
    • Focus on consuming fresh fruits & veggies + protein with every meal
  • Preconception care with a Naturopath or Nutritionist when preparing for pregnancy – this is a fantastic way to ensure that your body is fully ready to conceive, which may then decrease the chances of postpartum complications
    • Of course, this isn’t always realistic. Choosing a good quality prenatal supplement such as Moode or Evernatal is a great start
  • Trying to get enough sleep where you can & really looking after yourself in the postpartum period – having a solid support network can be really helpful in this.

There’s a lot happening in the postpartum period, and it’s a time where looking after yourself is the absolute best way to look after your family. Prioritizing your health & wellness is really important to help you be present with your children & partner, maintaining good mental health, preparing for future pregnancies & supporting your overall happiness. Postpartum is a beautiful time for you to nourish your body. If you’d like to work together one on one or you’re not quite sure where to start, please consider booking in for a free 15 minute discovery call.

More than just one on one:

We know that one on one consultations simply aren’t right for everyone, and that’s why we are in the process of putting together some really great resources for those of you who would prefer to watch webinars or do self-paced online courses. Please keep an eye on our webinars page to see what we have available. By joining the mailing list we will also let you know when new resources are uploaded.

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This blog does not provide individualised health advise. The information mentioned in this blog is educational in nature and is here to help you make informed decisions regarding your health. It is essential that you work with your healthcare practitioners to assess what is right for you.

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