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Postpartum thyroiditis happens when a woman’s thyroid gland becomes inflamed after having a baby. This condition affects a small percentage of pregnant women.
The thyroid is a tiny gland in the front of your neck. Its job is to make thyroid hormones. These hormones travel through your bloodstream to all parts of your body. Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy. They affect almost every organ in your body. When your thyroid doesn’t make the right amount of hormones, you don’t feel well.
Postpartum thyroiditis may first make your thyroid overactive (hyperthyroidism). This means it makes too many thyroid hormones. This can make parts of your body work too fast. But in time the condition leads to an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). This means it doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. As a result, parts of your body slow down.
Medical experts don’t know what causes this condition. But it is a lot like the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It is hard to tell the two conditions apart.
You may be more likely to get this condition if you have any of these:
When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it first sends a lot of thyroid hormone into your blood. That causes hyperthyroidism. During this time, you may not have any symptoms. Or any symptoms you do have may be mild and not last long.
After this first phase, you may fully recover. Or your thyroid may be damaged. A damaged thyroid can become underactive. This condition may also go away. Or you may have an underactive thyroid for the rest of your life. In this case you may need hormone replacement.
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
These symptoms may not appear until a few months after childbirth. They are often mistaken for normal signs of recovery from childbirth. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Tests used to diagnose postpartum thyroiditis depend on the phase of the disease. A blood test can usually tell if you have an overactive or underactive thyroid.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Treatment depends on the phase of the disease and your symptoms:
You should have regular thyroid tests. Your thyroid may be working normally within 12 to 18 months after the symptoms start. If so, you may be able to stop treatment. Thyroid function will return to normal in 80% of women.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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