Last Updated on October 3, 2023
Postpartum thyroiditis is a relatively rare condition affecting about 5% of the US population. In this condition, the thyroid gland becomes inflamed and enlarged.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the neck region that secretes thyroid hormones that regulate the body’s functions. Disruption in the production of thyroid hormones can make a person feel unwell, due to its direct effect on the body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms and cardiovascular system.
This blog aims to provide a brief overview of postpartum thyroiditis and its treatments. Before exploring potential treatment options, we recommend our readers explore all possible treatment options, including our hypothyroidism clinical trials. Prime Revival Research Institute is a prominent clinical research institute in Texas that conducts clinical trials across multiple areas.
What Is Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition that pregnant women develop after pregnancy (postpartum). It is a temporary inflammation or swelling of the thyroid gland, which can result in early hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone levels in the blood) followed by hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels in the blood). These imbalances resulting from postpartum thyroiditis can make an individual feel sick.
What Causes Postpartum Thyroiditis?
Following childbirth, the immune system may launch an attack on the thyroid gland, resulting in inflammation of the gland. This inflammation can cause the thyroid gland to become hyperactive, releasing excessive thyroid hormones in the bloodstream. This can cause the bodily functions to be accelerated.
Over time, the thyroid’s function may become depleted, reducing the production of thyroid hormones, which can result in an insufficient supply of thyroid hormones in the body. This is called an underactive thyroid, and results in the body functioning at a slower pace.
To this day, the precise cause of postpartum thyroiditis remains unknown, but it is believed to have similarities with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disorder.
Who Is At Risk For Postpartum Thyroiditis?
According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), women who are more likely to develop this condition can have the following as possible risk factors:
- Presence of antithyroid antibodies
- Type 1 diabetes
- History of prior thyroid dysfunction
- Family history of thyroid dysfunction
Postpartum Thyroiditis Symptoms
In the initial stages, the immune system attacks the thyroid cells. This change remains unnoticed until it manifests as symptoms. Due to which, this phase causes overproduction of thyroid hormone, a condition called hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis. Early postpartum thyroiditis symptoms can include:
- Heart palpitations
- Weight loss without trying
- Trouble sleeping
Postpartum thyroiditis symptoms usually manifest during the first four months after pregnancy. During this stage, one may presume their symptoms are a new normal with being a new mom, and so the condition can go unnoticed
After this initial stage of overactivity, the thyroid gland’s function reduces significantly, resulting in lesser production of thyroid hormone (underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism). As a result, the body’s functions slow down, causing:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold
- Lack of energy
The time span of this phase is usually around four to eight months after delivery and can last anywhere from 9 months to 1 year.
Not all women go through both phases, and the symptoms can also be mistaken for the stress of motherhood. A lot of women just think they’re tired because they’re awake a lot with their newborn. However, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor about your condition and how you feel.
Does Postpartum Thyroiditis Go Away On Its Own & How Is It Treated?
Postpartum thyroiditis typically resolves on its own in most cases. For milder cases with thyroid hormone levels that are not significantly high or low, medication may not even be necessary. Your physician may ask for blood tests to assess your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and check for thyroid antibodies. The treatment plan for postpartum thyroiditis will be according to the specific hormone levels observed from the blood tests.
If you have severe symptoms of an overactive thyroid and elevated hormone levels, your doctor may prescribe beta-blocker medication or prednisone steroids to address inflammation.
In cases of underactive thyroid symptoms and hormone levels, your healthcare provider may recommend a thyroid medication called levothyroxine.
Sometimes, your doctor may also suggest incorporating selenium supplements or consuming foods rich in selenium to help reduce thyroid inflammation. While all this may help, one must always keep in mind the importance of regular blood testing to monitor thyroid hormone levels. If you are on medication, continuous testing will determine if you still require the medication later on.
Many times, postpartum thyroiditis resolves within 12 to 18 months (about 1 and a half years), leading to a full recovery. If symptoms persist without improvement, there may be a possibility of permanent thyroid issues, necessitating further treatment.
Postpartum thyroiditis is a medical condition experienced by women soon after their pregnancies. It disrupts the levels of thyroid hormone and causes a myriad of symptoms somewhat similar to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Initially, it begins as hyperthyroidism and ends with the eventual destruction of thyroid cells, resulting in hypothyroidism. The slowdown in body functions warrants the need for treatment options similar to hypothyroid, like levothyroxine.
Prime Revival Research Institute is a prominent clinical research organization that conducts hypothyroidism clinical trials in multiple areas. With its vast network of clinical research sites spanned across Texas, it can offer excellent opportunities to people seeking treatment alternatives for hypothyroidism.