Monday, June 23, 2008

“What’s wrong with me?”

I’d never heard of Post Partum Thyroiditis until it was revealed as the culprit behind why I felt so unwell after the birth of my beautiful daughter.

For me, having a baby was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. It was also one of the most exhausting! For years I was a size 10-12. I maintained my weight by exercising once a week & eating a healthy diet. I fitted nicely into the simplistic formula “eat right & exercise” to look great.

But suddenly, after birth my health changed. Almost overnight I had changed from an intelligent active woman; to a fatigued, brainless forgetful sloth. I was tired, teary & gaining weight at a rapid rate. Even increasing my exercise & eating a well balanced calorie controlled diet didn’t work!

One year later I felt dreadful & what was going on inside my body was troubling. It was as though my brain had ‘stopped working’. I knew motherhood was going to be challenging, but I also knew that something was wrong – clearly, I was unwell. Finally, after months of searching I found the answer - Post Partum thyroiditis!

So what is Postpartum thyroiditis?

Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary, painless inflammation of the thyroid gland that occurs within a year after 5 – 10% of pregnancies.

The cause of this condition isn't known, although it is linked with immune system disorders, traumatic births or excessive blood loss during labor.

Initial stage: rapid heartbeat, sudden and unexplained weight loss, nervousness, fatigue and increased sensitivity to heat, recurrent miscarriage.

Later stages: fatigue, weight gain, mood changes, aches & pains, feeling the cold easily, fluid retention, recurrent miscarriage.

In most cases, thyroid function returns to normal within 12 to 18 months however, some women develop long-term hypothyroidism and need lifelong hormone support.

Achieving a formal diagnosis can take time, but the important thing to remember is that if you feel unwell & not yourself, it’s time to begin searching for answers.

1. Take a pro active approach to your health. Keep a diary & rate on a day to day basis from 1 – 5 of how you are feeling. List your signs and symptoms that you experienced that day.

2. Ask your Dr to do some blood tests. It is often pointless to just check T4 levels when testing for Post Partum thyroiditis. It is better to check, T3, T4, TSH & Autoimmune antibodies. Review the tests as whole rather just as one or two elements.

Remember though, it is not unusual for blood tests to be performed with the best of intentions, only to be incorrectly interpreted or completed in part. Unfortunately the ‘reference ranges’ applied to blood tests can also mislead a correct symptomatic diagnosis. So the most accurate diagnosis is achieved when your history is looked at in entirety.

3. Summarise your diary & take it to your GP. This will make it easier for them to make a more accurate diagnosis.

Most importantly though, remember you are not alone and with the right advice, you can ‘feel yourself again’.