By Katie Blakely
NATUROPATH | CROYDON, VIC
My name is Katie Blakely and I’m a Naturopath working in Croydon, Victoria. I’m passionate about helping women feel their best, often supporting women with thyroid conditions & hormonal dysregulation. It is far too often that women are told their symptoms are ‘normal’ and shrugged off. The truth is, although symptoms like extreme fatigue are common after giving birth, they aren’t always normal. I support women to feel their best through one-on-one consultations, group workshops & online education.
Today we’re going to explore Postpartum Thyroiditis, which affects 1 in 20 women after giving birth.
Symptoms to look out for that might indicate something is going on with your thyroid:
- Extreme fatigue that just won’t go away no matter how much sleep/rest you get
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss OR weight gain
- Dry skin
- Reduced ability to exercise, or feeling unwell or tired after exercise
So what actually is Postpartum thyroiditis?
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, brains, 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.
There’s a fine balance when it comes to thyroid function. In Postpartum Thyroiditis, it’s common for the thyroid to be quite up and down. To help explain what this means, I’m going to explain a couple of terms used to describe thyroid function –
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.
So in Postpartum Thyroiditis, the thyroid can be moving between hyperthyroid & hypothyroid – which can make you feel pretty all 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. It is also common that in Postpartum Thyroiditis there are thyroid antibodies present (although this doesn’t happen all of the time), which means that your own cells attack the thyroid.
What are the risk factors?
- 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?
First point of call: head to the GP and tell them your symptoms & your concerns. They will likely test your TSH, which can give a good snapshot of thyroid function, however it doesn’t show everything!
If the GP does a blood test and tells you that your thyroid is fine, but you still don’t feel quite right, then I recommend booking in for a Naturopathic Consultation. The Naturopath will be able to have a more thorough look at your blood tests and may suggest more comprehensive testing if it is well indicated.
If the GP tests your thyroid and it’s out of range, they may prescribe you with medication to either give you extra thyroxine (thyroid hormone) if you’re presenting with hypothyroidism, or if you’re presenting with hyperthyroidism they may take a wait and see approach, or prescribe you with a medication to suppress the thyroid. It all depends on how your blood tests are looking.
If you’re starting on thyroid medication, you may find it really helpful to work with a Naturopath to support your body holistically, reducing your symptoms while also working on the cause of why this is actually happening for you. Considering you are postpartum, a Naturopath would likely be wanting to have a deep look into your nutrient status as there are many nutritional deficiencies that can have a really big effect on thyroid function. And remember, when you’re pregnant you’re growing a baby – and they get first dips on all of the nutrients that you’re consuming & on what’s stored in your body! If you then breastfeed, this process of sharing your nutrients (baby having the preference before mum). On top of this, they may prescribe herbal medicines, nutritional medicines, diet & lifestyle advice to support you holistically.
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)
- Ensure 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
- 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!
Visit Katie at Synergy Massage & Wellness in Croydon