Thyroid disease and new mothers

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

References