Postpartum Thyroiditis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Postpartum Thyroiditis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

15 Jul 2022 | 4 min Read

Sayani Basu

Author | 511 Articles

The thyroid is a tiny gland in the front of your neck and makes thyroid hormones. These hormones travel through your bloodstream to all parts of your body and are responsible for regulating metabolism, the heart, nervous system, weight, body temperature, and many more processes that take place in your body.

Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition when a woman’s thyroid gland becomes inflamed after giving birth. Medical studies show that this condition affects a small percentage of pregnant women, about 2 in 25 pregnancies.

Postpartum thyroiditis can also result in hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels in the blood) and sometimes hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels in the blood). Here’s everything you need to know about postpartum thyroiditis.

What Is Postpartum Thyroiditis?

Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary inflammation or swelling of the thyroid gland that occurs within one year of childbirth. It is caused by a mechanism naturally performed by the body’s immune system that attacks the thyroid gland after a childbirth when the body returns to its normal immune tolerance.

According to research, women who have Type 1 diabetes or those who have a history of thyroid dysfunction are at an increased risk for postpartum thyroiditis.

Plus, women with a family history of thyroid dysfunction are also at higher risk of developing postpartum thyroid.

The presence of microsomal antibodies (thyroid specific antibodies) can also make a woman more susceptible to thyroid dysfunction including postpartum thyroiditis.

Causes of Postpartum Thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroid is caused by antithyroid antibodies attacking the thyroid after you have a baby. This causes the thyroid to be inflamed and become overactive and start to send out too much thyroid hormones into your blood, making your body work too fast.

After some time, the thyroid becomes depleted and slows down the amount of thyroid hormones it makes. This leads to insufficient thyroid hormones in the body and is called an underactive thyroid. This will make your body work too slow. 

Although experts don’t know exactly what causes postpartum thyroiditis, it is thought to be similar to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease.

postpartum thyroiditis cause
Excessive postpartum hair loss after having a baby can be a sign of postpartum thyroiditis. | Image Source: pexels

Symptoms of Postpartum Thyroiditis

Mostly, new mums notice the symptoms of postpartum thyroiditis after the second phase of postpartum thyroid (hypothyroidism). This phase usually takes place four to eight months after giving birth. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Heart palpitations and tiredness
  • Losing or gaining excessive weight
  • Trouble in sleeping
  • Tremors and nervousness
  • Sweating and hyperactivity
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Aversion to the cold

How Is Postpartum Thyroid Diagnosed?

If you notice any of the symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor without delay. Your doctor will begin your exam with a history of your symptoms and will then take a blood sample to test the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood.

A thyroid ultrasound helps to detect goitres of the thyroid and is painless. | Image Source: freepik

How Is Postpartum Thyroiditis Treated?

The treatment for postpartum thyroiditis varies depending on the severity of your condition. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Women with mild symptoms are usually not prescribed any medication unless their symptoms worsen.
  • Women with severe symptoms will be prescribed treatment and medication that varies during each phase of the condition.
  • Women experiencing hyperthyroidism are usually treated with beta-blockers to reduce their symptoms.
  • Women experiencing hypothyroidism are usually treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Your doctor will continue to monitor your thyroid levels during treatment and eventually might be able to taper off your medication as your thyroid returns to normal functioning levels. However, those with positive thyroid antibodies are likely to continue in the hypothyroid phase and will need lifelong thyroid hormone replacement.

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