You’ve been through pregnancy, you’ve been through Labour, you leave the hospital with your squishy newborn in your arms, but what else are you going home with? Did you know that between 4 & 10% of women develop a thyroid condition during the first year after giving birth?
Today is World Thyroid Day, in fact I believe it’s Thyroid Awareness Week (its not greatly advertised) so I thought I’d share my story.
It wasn’t long after having my daughter that I noticed something wasn’t right. I felt like I had a lump in my throat, obviously full of hormones I then became convinced it must be an actual lump in my throat and terrified myself. It felt like someone was strangling me, at all times.
So, I did what any sane person would do… I googled it. I know, I know! Obviously, by the end of that I had a very poor chance of survival according to Dr Google.
Next, I visited my GP. She was brilliant! Straight away she suggested my thyroid being at fault and ordered the relevant bloodwork.
So, What IS a Thyroid and where do I find it?
Firstly, your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck/ throat. It’s part of your endocrine system, is controlled by your pituitary, and is responsible for making two hormones, Triiodothyronine or T3 and Thyroxine or T4. These two hormones are responsible for the functioning of all the cells in your body, thats right, all of them!
Where does it go wrong?
If your body produces too much of these hormones, you develop HYPERthyroidism. This means your cells are working faster than they should be.
If your body produces too little, you develop HYPOthyroidism. This means your cells are working slower than they should be. (This is the most common kind, the kind I have)
Who is most at risk?
Anyone can develop a Thyroid disorder, about 1 in 20 people are affected. Although, it is most common in women.
What should I be looking for?
- Putting on weight/ struggling to lose weight,
- Struggling to concentrate,
You could have Hypothyroidism. Obviously, these symptoms are rather vague and could easily be diagnosed as something else so it is always worth asking your GP if there’s a chance your thyroid could be involved.
- Losing weight,
- Loose bowel movements,
You could have Hyperthyroidism. Again, these symptoms are vague and could be indicative of other conditions. Always ask a GP.
There are other types of Thyroid disorder, such as Graves Disease (which affects the eyes), but these are the most common.
With any thyroid condition, you may experience swelling of the thyroid gland. (The strangling sensation I experienced was due to this swelling)
What tests are involved?
The best way to look at your thyroid function is with a blood test, this will tell your GP all they need to know. Dependant on your symptoms, your GP may also order an ultrasound scan of your neck/ throat.
I have a confirmed thyroid condition, now what?
Thyroid conditions can be hereditary.
Women who have developed their condition during pregnancy or after giving birth, may have their condition temporarily, in this instance usually your levels are only marginally out and your GP will just keep testing your bloods every few months. If your levels do return to normal they may be off again if you have another baby.
If however, this is not the case you will likely be put on medication. One tablet a day, every day. If you have Hyperthyroidism sometimes it is necessary to remove part or all of the thyroid gland by surgery or radioactive iodine.
It will also be necessary to undertake regular blood tests.
As it stands, having a long-term thyroid condition in the UK entitles you to free prescriptions, you just need to fill in the exemption form.
For me, my third pregnancy threw things out of whack again and I needed my dose upping. Do not stop taking your medication during pregnancy, you need it! Speak to your GP/ midwife about it at your first appointment.
I hope you found this helpful! You can find more detailed information here. I am not a Dr, this article does not replace medical advise- please do see your GP with any health concerns.