New mothers who have not been previously diagnosed with thyroid disease can develop problems with their thyroid within the first year after giving birth; this is called postpartum thyroiditis (PPT).
There are several symptoms of both an under and overactive thyroid that new mothers can look out for.3
PPT and symptoms of an underactive thyroid
A large proportion of women who develop PPT (approximately 40 – 45%) will experience symptoms of an underactive thyroid. These include: fatigue, loss of concentration, poor memory, constipation and possible depression.3
PPT and symptoms of an overactive thyroid
Between 20% – 30% of women who develop PPT experience symptoms of an overactive thyroid. These include: fatigue, palpitations, weight loss, heat intolerance, nervousness, anxiety and irritability.3
Hyperthyroidism in PPT usually occurs in the first six months after the baby is born (most commonly around three months) and usually lasts between one and two months.3
How is PPT treated?
Since PPT generally is a passing and transient condition, treatment is not needed in all cases.
- New mothers with symptoms of an underactive thyroid, who are not suffering and are not planning another child, do not necessarily need treatment.
- However, thyroid monitoring/checks between four and eight weeks after diagnosis are recommended.3
- Women who find living with their symptoms difficult or are planning a subsequent pregnancy should be treated with levothyroxine.3
- New mothers with symptoms of an overactive thyroid should consult their doctor for further treatment.
Follow-up for women with PPT
Even though a diagnosis of thyroid problems may be scary, PPT is not necessarily a long term condition and the majority of women find their thyroid gland works normally by the end of the first year after the birth of their baby.3 Should you experience any of the symptoms outlined above on a long term basis, please consult your doctor.
Did you know?
Thyroid disorders are as much as eight times more common in women than in men?1
- 1Poppe K, Velkeniers B, Glinoert D: Thyroid disease and female reproduction. Clinical Endocrinology, 2007: 66(3): 309-321
- 2American Thyroid Association. Iodine Deficiency http://www.thyroid.org/patients/patient_brochures/iodine_deficiency.html. Accessed March 2009
- 3Management of Thyroid Dysfunction during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. 2007
- 4Fast Facts For Your Health. Thyroid Disease and Women. National Women’s Health Resource Center. Red Bank, NJ.2006
- 5ACOG Education Pamphlet AP128-Thyroid Disease. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Washington, DC. 2002
- 6Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/placental-abruption/DS00623/DSECTION=complications Accessed March 2009
- 7Poppe K, Velkeniers B, Glinoer D; Medscape. The role of thyroid autoimmunity in fertility and pregnancy. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2008;4:394-405
- 8American Thyroid Association. Thyroid Disease and Pregnancy http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Thyroid_Dis_Pregnancy_broch.pdf. Accessed March 2009
- 9Bettendorf M. Thyroid disorders in children from birth to adolescence. Eur J Nucl Med Mo Imaging. 2002;29 Suppl 2:S439-46
- 10Brown R et al. Congenital Hypothyroidism. The Hormone Foundation. 2009
- 11Thyroid Disease in Children. Mydr.com http://www.mydr.com.au/kids-teens-health/thyroid-disease-in-children. Accessed March 2009
- 12Lee PA. The effects of manipulation of puberty on growth. Horm Res. 2003;60:60-7