I was diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis 15 years ago after the birth of my first child. suspect my thyroid was starting to ‘play up’ before this as I had a test that was slightly out a couple of years beforehand.  I then moved house and GP practice and never followed it up as didn’t understand the implication or really what the thyroid did. It’s to do with weight isn’t it? was my initial reaction. It all started to make sense a bit later. 

Physical symptoms

Months followed of feeling tired after giving birth, not losing the baby weight, losing hair, difficultly with breast feeding and finding my son so heavy to carry when no other mother seemed to. I initially thought I was just not as good as the other Mums at anything and kept thinking ‘they said being a parent makes you tired but really?’  There were times when I would put the baby in the bouncer and fall asleep on the floor next to him, waking up unable to move for a few minutes. There were numerous other things happening at the time to blame tiredness on; building work to the house, a sick elderly relative. It was like there was no time for me to be ill too. 

Then on a train journey to London I fell asleep and when I woke up the train was emptying and I was watching all the people get off. My brain was telling me to stand up but my body didn’t respond! This went on for a few minutes The cleaners arrived and I was starting to panic. Very slowly my body woke up too and I was able to move. It was at this stage that I went to the doctor. Fortunately, I was quite quickly diagnosed with postpartum thyroiditis, which had progressed to hypothyroidism being told I was nearly off the scale!
The recovery journey has been fairly ok compared with some. It took a while to accept the concept of being on lifelong medication at the age of 30. The realisation that without this small pill I would turn into what felt like a sack of potatoes with slowing organs and brain function and no capacity to engage in anything. 
With some medicine tweaking, it took about 18 months to start feeling back to some sort of normality. After initially being dismissed as ‘normally’ tired after a doctor's appointment during my second pregnancy, my brilliant midwife suggested increasing my levothyroxine dose by 25-50 micrograms. This suddenly made my pregnancy more comfortable and I remained in the healthy TSH level range. More recently focusing on women’s health and remembering to constantly mention my hypothyroidism at appointments, is helping to get some understanding and find the right combination of treatment for my body as the menopause looms. 

Psychological effects

I have had episodes of depression at various points in my life and have found that finding the right combination of levothyroxine and progesterone has helped me (although different for everyone I’m sure)I look back now and can see that the sudden tiredness, combined with feeling of coldness, as if I was going underwater, was linked to my thyroid function. In a way, I knew I wasn’t actually depressed underneath it all. People kept saying you must be depressed but I knew (subconsciously), there was something else happening. Like, I knew I was so happy to be a mother when I had my baby. I just couldn’t quite connect because my body wasn’t up to it and I didn’t know why.  It was my physical health that was affecting my mental health, which has helped me to understand mental health problems can be a physical condition. 

Positive self-talk

These days, apart from the pandemic that is affecting all of us, I can do plenty of things. I still find there are times when things just aren’t happening, like the frustration that the same run I did the week before suddenly seems really difficult. I know I can’t be one of these constant high-energy go getters that I would like to be! I find there is more I can do than I used to thinkas long as I approach it with some positive self-talk and take time to recuperate when my body says so. Having a condition doesn’t always make you feel popular but so be it!

I’d like to say a big thank you to the NHS medical staff who have listened and have taken this condition seriously as there are times when you can feel so lost with it!  I’m finding more recently the combination of support from a women’s health perspective is really making a difference to my life and hopefully it can for others too. 

Most of all thank you to the BTF who do a wonderful job and really helped me understand with their informative newsletters, especially when I was initially diagnosed.  

My experience with hypothyroidism is, that once you have accepted it, you are mostly able to get on with lifeAfter a while, I found it freed up my thinking to focus on the illness less. Although I find it’s always helpful to keep up to date about new research and advances that might mean I will hopefully have the energy and health to contribute more to life and my family as we all get older! 

Further information and support

Postpartum thyroiditis


Psychological symptoms of thyroid conditions

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