Thyroid Problems After Pregnancy

Hormonal Changes During Pregnancy

When a woman is pregnant, her body produces more hormones than usual. This is the cause of mood swings, changes in appetite, having feelings of extreme tiredness, or excessive sleepiness. When the baby is finally out it the world, mommy's hormones are still adjusting. One gland of the endocrine system that is affected by pregnancy is the thyroid.

During pregnancy, the thyroid gets a little bigger. This, in turn, has impact on the thyroid's production of hormones that regulate a person's metabolism, energy use, and protein production. A woman who is with child should have a balanced intake of iodine to avoid problems with the thyroid during pregnancy and after giving birth.

While pregnancy causes changes in the thyroid gland and its production of the thyroid hormone, it can also lead to certain thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism where there is overproduction of thyroid hormones, or hypothyroidism where a woman has an under-active thyroid gland.

This condition is called postpartum thyroiditis (PPT). It usually follows the pattern of having hyperthyroidism which is then followed by hypothyroidism.

What is PPT?

PPT is a condition that manifests its symptoms from one to eight months after giving birth. Considered as an auto immune condition, PPT can cause hyperthyroidism that can last from a month or two. This condition is similar to two other auto immune diseases that affect the thyroid gland namely; Grave's disease and Hashimoto's disease which is also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. PPT is said to be a variation of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Some of the most common symptoms are:
  • Weight gain or weight loss depending on the level of thyroid hormone produced
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dry hair that may lead to hair falling out
  • Rapid heartbeat and lack of concentration
  • Decreased amount of milk produced for breastfeeding

What Can Be Done?

Avoiding PPT can be done by having a balanced diet that has the right amount of iodine for the mother and the baby's needs. If needed, supplements to adjust the level of the thyroid hormone to the normal state may be needed.

The symptoms present above may not immediately be seen after giving birth. An interval of one to eight months is the span where such symptoms may manifest themselves. Treatment can be done by taking replacement thyroid hormones prescribed by the OB-gynecologist.

In some cases, the thyroid gets too damaged by the hormone production changes it has undergone and may not return to its normal function. When this happens, the woman may need to have lifelong medications to compensate for the loss of thyroid function.

(Posted by Jonathan Berns at