CHILDBIRTH AND THE THYROID
Please see Words for definitions.
Post-natal thyroid disease may be misdiagnosed as post-natal depression or puerperal psychosis. It is essential that women already diagnosed with post-natal depression or puerperal psychosis are tested for thyroid disorder. A mother’s mental and physical wellbeing are so important that some believe that a thyroid test sometime in the months after the baby’s birth should be routine for all women.
Post-partum hypothyroidism is a name used for underactive thyroid disease occurring after childbirth. Sometimes hypothyroid symptoms are casually dismissed as normal parental tiredness. A woman may have hypothyroid problems beginning shortly after her baby’s birth. In 75% of women with post-partum hypothyroidism replacement hormone (usually thyroxine) will be needed for only a short time. For the other 25%, blood tests will indicate that thyroxine is needed for life usually indicating that the woman had a thyroid disorder for some time before the pregnancy or birth.
The discovery that the unpleasant symptoms of depression, exhaustion, weakness, forgetfulness, aching and coldness may be relieved with thyroxine (the usual treatment) is very positive and life enhancing. Consultation with a doctor and a blood test are advisable. At the correct dosage thyroxine has no side effects or ill effects on the baby and does not affect breastfeeding – for peace of mind, double check this with your doctor. Thyroxine simply helps the body to restore itself to a healthy balanced state making childcare and life in general much easier.
It is important to consult a doctor regularly for blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels in the blood and to take the correct dose of thyroxine as prescribed by the doctor every day. Your doctor can advise you on whether you will need to take thyroxine only for a short time, or for life; this will depend on your blood test results.
Post-partum thyroiditis is a name given to inflammation of the thyroid occurring after childbirth which may cause overactive thyroid symptoms followed by underactive thyroid symptoms. The inflammation may make the neck tender and swollen.
Post-partum thyroiditis may be dismissed by doctors and partners as “first time mother worry or inability to cope.”
The symptoms of post-partum thyroiditis are the characteristic signs of an overactive thyroid gland, tremor, palpitations, sharp loss of weight and general restless anxiety. The woman feels hot and tired but can’t sleep when she needs it most! This anxious phase may last two to four months and may then go into an underactive phase characterised by fatigue, constipation, depression and sluggishness.
It’s a good idea to get a thyroid test if you have these symptoms. There are many treatments which may help the overactive thyroid phase. Some anti-thyroid drugs given for overactive thyroid problems may mean that breast feeding is not appropriate and bottle feeding is advised. Get your doctor’s advice. It is important to consult a doctor regularly for blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels in the blood.
Thyroxine is the usual treatment for any underactive thyroid phase. Thyroxine in the correct dosage is fine for breastfeeding. It is important to consult a doctor regularly for regular blood tests to check thyroid hormone levels in the blood and to take the correct dose of thyroxine as prescribed by the doctor every day. You may need to take thyroxine only for a short time or for life, ask your doctor.
Both post-partum hypothyroidism and post-partum thyroiditis are often short-lived but may reccur when the woman has another child. Thyroid tests are advisable.
FOR THYROID SUFFERERS IT’S GOOD NEWS TO FIND OUT THAT DEBILITATING SYMPTOMS CAN BE TREATED. WITH THE RIGHT TREATMENT LOOKING AFTER YOUR BABY AND YOURSELF MAY BECOME MUCH EASIER AND YOU MAY FEEL A WHOLE LOT BETTER.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE THYROID DISEASE THERE ARE STILL TREATMENTS THAT MAY HELP YOU, ALWAYS ASK A DOCTOR.
If you feel unwell for any reason consult your doctor or psychiatrist and health visitor or community psychiatric nurse for help and support. You could also contact the UK’s Association for Postnatal Illness.
Tel: 0207 – 386-0868.
Babies and Children
In the UK mothers are offered a blood test for their baby known as the Guthrie or “heal prick test” a short time after the baby’s birth. This tests for thyroid disease as well as other conditions including phenylketonuria.
It is important to have the test done as it should show up any thyroid problem in the baby. Appropriate treatment for the baby will greatly help with growth and physical and mental development.
If your baby has not had this test consult your doctor. A child or adult of any age may develop a thyroid problem. If your are worried about this consult a GP or paediatrician with an interest in endocrinology.
Growth rate in children may be a useful indicator of thyroid disorder in some cases. A health visitor may be able to help with growth checks and records. Keep a record of your child’s growth and take it along to the consultation. Give details of this along with any other symptoms to the doctor.
A blood test should help with any thyroid diagnosis.