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Trimester Thursday: The Sluggish Thyroid

Posted by Natalie Cassell on

Thyroid disease runs in my family. I expected to suffer from it eventually. However, I didn’t expect it to start in my early 20s, and I had never heard of postpartum thyroiditis. After I had my daughter, I couldn’t lose the baby weight. I was in the best shape of my life prior to getting pregnant. I had great muscle tone, an excellent diet, and continued jogging through my pregnancy. Still, I put on a quick 30 pounds in my third trimester. Postpartum, I breastfed and continued my healthy habits. Or I tried to. It didn’t make sense that I wasn’t losing weight. Then, 6 months after I weaned her, I lost the baby weight plus an extra 20 pounds in just a few months. I was the thinnest I had ever been. I looked great, but I felt awful.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Yes, I was losing weight, but I was in an early phase of the disease. My metabolism and hormones cycled up and down for several years, making treatment impossible. It was a roller coaster, and all I could do was hang on and wait for the ride to end.

After my second pregnancy, I lost the baby weight quite quickly. I had only four more pounds to shed when my second born was two months old. I was so excited. Unfortunately, at three months postpartum I gained twelve pounds in two weeks, my hair started falling out, and I felt sick again. I stubbornly refused to see a doctor and assured myself this was normal postpartum hormone fluctuations. But when my weight continued to climb, I caved. My doctor confirmed the ride was over, and it was time to start medication.

You may wonder how you will know if you develop Hashimoto’s or postpartum hypothyroidism. Maybe you are struggling to shed the baby weight, and you feel like you are doing something wrong. Sometimes it can be really difficult to tell hypothyroid and normal postpartum symptoms apart. Here are a few key differences:

Normal Postpartum Symptoms:

  • Steady weight. I know you want to lose weight, but you may hang on to a few pounds for a while. That’s okay. Even breastfeeding mothers do that. Relax!
  • You have a newborn. Welcome to motherhood.
  • Constipation that gets better with time. Things need to…adjust back to normal.
  • Carb cravings. Your body is looking for a little extra energy.
  • Mild hair loss. Your hormones are all over the place.
  • Night sweats. See above.
  • Baby blues. It’s those pesky hormones again. Baby blues go away within a few weeks postpartum.

Hypothyroid Symptoms:

  • Constipation that doesn’t go away. Your metabolism has slowed down.
  • Weight gain. Sometimes sudden and extreme. Maybe you gained back the baby weight plus a little extra. Diet and exercise doesn’t help.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Puffy face from water retention, because your body temperature is lower.
  • Feeling cold. You have low body temperature due to a slowed metabolism.
  • Hair loss that seems excessive.
  • It may feel debilitating.
  • Carb cravings. Pay special attention if this is new for you (i.e. you suddenly need dessert every night after dinner and never cared for it before).
  • Maybe not a symptom, but an understandable result of all of the above. If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, please ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels.

You don’t need to have a certain number of the symptoms above to have hypothyroidism. Maybe you are only concerned about your weight, but have had your concerns minimized by others. Unexplained weight gain is never normal! If you don’t feel right, ask to have your levels checked.

If you get a diagnosis, advocate for yourself. Have your levels checked frequently to make sure you are on the right dosage. Monitor your symptoms, and discuss any changes with your doctor. And please, make sure you eat. Hypothyroidism is a vicious beast. The less you eat, the more your metabolism will slow down and exacerbate your symptoms. If you are breastfeeding, you need to eat a sufficient number of calories to produce breast milk.

Many wonder if hypothyroidism will affect their ability to breastfeed. Some experts say that it does. The most common claim is that it might affect a woman’s ability to produce or release enough milk. While more research is needed to confirm it, it makes sense that hypothyroidism (something affecting your metabolism and hormone levels) may have an affect on breastfeeding. If nothing else, the symptoms can cause you extra stress, and stress alone can affect supply and letdown.

It took 4 months and a change in medication before I saw improvements. My energy and metabolism increased, and my cravings disappeared. I don’t have any weight loss to report, because I also got pregnant in that time. However, I can tell you I haven’t gained a pound yet. So, give the medicine time to work, but don’t be afraid to try something new if it isn’t working.

Also, take heart. Some women are lucky and postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary affliction that resolves itself.

Hi readers! I’m Natalie, writer and mom of two. I am so excited to join The 16 Minute Club’s new blog, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. My pudgy breastfed baby, Jackson, is 8 months old and looks like he subsists on whipping cream. You would never know he was once “failing to thrive.” Breastfeeding has certainly had its ups and downs. Like most moms, I spend my days wavering between maternal bliss and horrification at some of the realities of motherhood. After my first child, I was sure I had things figured out. I just knew breastfeeding would be easier with my second. But the truth is that every baby is different, and they each present new challenges. Sometimes they even present the same challenges, but require different solutions.

 


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