Pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period are the most incredible times in a woman’s life.
The conception, growth and birth of a new life is such a miracle and I believe every woman on earth should be honoured for the power she has during this time.
However, for me, pregnancy was the beginning of what has now been a six-year journey with Hashimotos Thyroiditis.
My first child was born at the end of 2016. After a year of trying to get pregnant (and dreaming about it for many years before!), I was so ready to grow and carry new life.
I had an amazing pregnancy and can honestly say I felt better pregnant than in other times in my life. Although my birth recovery was hard, I revelled in the energy, joy and adrenaline during those first months with a newborn, despite feeding every two hours, night and day!
Things changed when my baby was about five months old. I suddenly couldn’t tolerate the cold, particularly in the morning.
I would wake with freezing cold hands and feet and struggle to get warm, even in bed with layers of clothes and the heating on.
My postpartum weight loss suddenly reached a plateau and I was gaining instead of losing weight. My hair began falling out in handfuls, blocking the drains and covering the floor. I felt constantly anxious and a sickening tiredness overcame me that no amount of sleep could relieve.
In a matter of weeks I was struggling. I didn’t just go downhill, it was like I fell off a cliff.
I was not enjoying motherhood, unable to keep up with the demands of my now crawling baby. I couldn’t manage normal household chores and simple outings to the supermarket. I felt beyond exhausted.
We were moving house around that time so I assumed it was just stress, combined with the demands of breastfeeding and sleepless nights. We also live far away from family, which makes raising children a humongous challenge when you have no support.
I remember the day we moved house, I cried most of it. I had become so unwell and exhausted I could barely lift a box, let alone carry a baby. I was depressed, wondering why on earth my body felt like it was held down with lead. I actually wondered if I had been poisoned somehow!
However, I pushed on, still thinking this might be normal and that I was somehow flawed for not being able to cope. Weight gain (breastfeeding does make you crave carbs!), hair loss (isn’t some postpartum shedding normal?) and exhaustion (synonymous with sleep deprivation!) are all normal aspects of new motherhood, aren’t they?
But then my brain began slowing down. I couldn’t concentrate on a simple conversation about the weather.
My husband had always joked about my terrible memory, but by this point I was forgetting everything from simple appointments to the names of my family members. The fatigue was unlike anything I had ever experienced. If my baby decided to miss one nap I would cry in desperation, not knowing how to get through the day.
Eventually I went to see my doctor.
If you’ve made it this far through my story, this is where I wish I could write this in bold, capital letters across the sky. My symptoms were not normal.
It breaks my heart thinking of any mother going through this, so if you are a mother in the first year after birth and are feeling any of the symptoms I have mentioned here, please see a doctor.
My blood tests revealed I was severely hypothyroid with my TSH over 100, higher than my doctor had ever seen. He asked me how I’d managed to walk into his surgery. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
My doctor suspected I had Hashimotos Thyroiditis, a condition where the immune system attacks healthy thyroid cells. He gave me a prescription which he said I’d need to take for the rest of my life, and told me in a few weeks I’d feel better.
I was dumbfounded. I did have a history of thyroid disease, from almost 20 years prior. I had developed an overactive thyroid when I was 17. I was told I had Graves Disease and was given medication for six months, after which I was told my thyroid function had returned to normal and I was discharged.
But looking back now it all makes sense.
After I was discharged from my endocrinologist at age 17, I spent the next 20 years with constant fluctuations in weight, unexplained fatigue, persistent gastrointestinal issues , acne, constant thirst and urination, periods of depression and anxiety, brain fog, achy joints and a host of other odd ailments that made me feel “off” most of the time.
I went to the doctors often, but I got the impression they thought I was a hypochondriac or a nuisance. They looked at all of my symptoms independently; I was prescribed antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, meds for IBS, antibiotics, creams and then Roaccutane for acne, and also the contraceptive pill.
All of these treatments did nothing to help the underlying cause; my thyroid.
Pregnancy is like a stress test for the thyroid and unfortunately it was the last straw for mine to spiral out of control.
I have responded perfectly well to Levothyroxine, which is the most common drug to treat hypothyroidism. But amending my diet and lifestyle has been paramount in my journey to healing and reducing symptoms.
Thyroid issues are so common, but we can live a happy, healthy and normal life with this disease.
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And if this story resonates with you, please do leave me a comment (or feel free to email me personally).