Monday, October 6, 2008

Postpartum Thyroiditis

So, I've been thinking that I wanted to share a little about this unknown, but not too uncommon disease. It is often mistaken for other common postpartum conditions including depression and just plain ol' motherhood. Here's my experience...

After I had my first child, I was working at Alpha Plasma Center. lol. Good memories. Anyway, I was a phlebotomist which is a fancy way of saying I stuck people with needles. Goose was about 3 1/2 months old when I started noticing that I felt "weird". I started losing weight, I was horribly tired and my hands shook. (not a good symptom when you have a needle in your hand). I figured it was probably nothing and went on with my life, however, the symptoms got worse. The weight kept coming off, I was 15 lbs below where I got pregnant at, and I was never overweight to begin with. My face was gaunt, my eyes were dark, and my hair was falling out by the handful. And I still felt awful. I couldn't sleep, but I wanted to. I was grouchy, depressed and I felt like I was constantly running a marathon. The best analogy I can think of is to imagine when you're pregnant and you *HAVE* to eat all the time... You know how you feel shaky and sort of out of control-grouchy when you hit that wall, of "I have to eat something NOW!". Imagine feeling that way pretty much all the time, and food doesn't make it get better. I finally made the appointment with my doctor one day when I felt really shaky and realized my pulse was 140 (while I sat doing paperwork).

I'm grateful the doctor was up on his postpartum possiblities. He did some blood work and called me later to tell me I had postpartum thyroiditis. I'm not sure how good I am at explaining all this, but I will try. When a woman is pregnant, her immune system is suppressed so that she doesn't fight off her own baby. This is a good thing. However, when the baby is born, the immune system rebounds back into full gear. I have read that up to 10% of women have overactive antibodies that then, for unknown reasons, attack the thyroid. The "injured" thyroid releases its stores of hormone in response to the attack, causing the symptoms I described above. Some women go on to develop hypothyroid symptoms when the body uses up the released thyroid hormone and the thyroid is still inflammed or "injured" and doesn't make more.

After I had Sweetie and Tank , I had a similar but less extreme experience. I lost a little weight, still had extreme fatigue, lost hair and felt icky. I would probably compare those experiences more with what postpartum depression must be like. I've actually read that thyroiditis is often mis-diagnosed as depression and I can sure tell why.

In fact, I had someone tell me about their postpartum experience, her symptoms were actually similar to many of mine. Her doctor diagnosed her over the phone with post-partum depression and wanted to start her on medication. DON'T LET YOUR DOCTOR DO THIS!!!! He could not possibly make a proper diagnosis without doing blood work and a full consultation. Insist on an appointment.

Back to the topic. By my third round of postpartum thyroiditis, my thyroid was damaged beyond repair. After the thyrotoxic phase which I described above, I went on to have hypothyroid symptoms. My endocrinologist started me on Synthroid. What a miracle drug. I felt SOOO much better on the medicine. I stayed on it through my next pregnancy as well.

Well, true to form, after having Twister, my thyroid went bezerk again. I'm guessing that since I was on medication this time, the symptoms were worse. Not as bad as when I had Goose, but definetly worse than when I had the girls. Finding the right dose of medicine has been hard and I still don't think its quite right.

The hardest thing about postpartum thyroiditis is that there is very little that can be done for it. If you are symptomatic like I was the first time around, they give you a beta-blocker to help reduce your heartrate. That's it. Our society's obsession with being thin is hard to handle too. Like I said before, I went 15 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight the first time I went through this. I was seriously sickly thin. And yet, people still made comments like, " I wish I had that disease". "Well, you look great!" "It can't be that bad if it helps you lose weight" . Feeling decent is a heck of a lot more important to me than being thin, and I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Knowledge is power, right? I had never heard of it and still have never met someone else who has gone through this, but , hopefully this post can help someone out there, even if its so they know they are not alone.


Teri said...

I have been one of those jerks that thought it wouldn't be so bad....but after all these details...I AM SO SORRY!!! You are a trooper. :)

And you have a home business and well behaved kids....YOU ARE AMAZING!!

Rosebud Collection said...

What a great blog and very helpful..
I have hypo and use Armour condition came about in a different way..but your blog was so informative. It is always good to know.

Ker said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Cheryl. It's always good to know what can happen after having a baby. I'm sorry you had to go through that! I wouldn't wish my postpartum experience on anybody, either, but that's an entirely different story.

Brenda said...

I totally remember all of that with you! I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but you looked terrible then. We could all tell that you weren't yourself. You looked beyond exhausted! I'm so glad they correctly diagnosed you and that you're getting the best help possible:) And in every picture I've seen on your blog, you look great!

Mrs. Morty said...

I remember you being sick with your first, that stinks that you had to go through that with all of your little ones. It's hard enough being a new mom without feeling like a truck has run over you too. I hope they get things figured out for you soon!!

Corrine said...

my thyroid went way out of wack after timmy, i was down 15lbs from my prepregnancy weight just 2 weeks after he was born and went down from there even more (though i still needed to lose some more) but have been sick on and off for the last year, but because my numbers are only a few off from the norm they haven't tried meds, and I have thought they should, because what is my norm? you know?? anyway glad you are being treated.

Emily and Kyle said...

This is good to know! Thanks for posting it!