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Post-partum hypothyroidism: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About post-partum hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the production of thyroid hormone is diminished. The thyroid gland is located in the front of neck and is responsible for the production of thyroid hormones namely T3 and T4. Post-partum hypothyroidism is characterised by reduced production of the thyroid hormones in women after the delivery of the child. This condition usually goes undiagnosed since it is associated with depression and mood changes. Such behavioural symptoms not only occur in post-partum hypothyroidism but are also seen generally after delivery in most of the women. Thus post-partum hypothyroidism is easily missed out due to overlapping symptoms.

Post-partum hypothyroidism: Incidence, age and sex

The incidence of post-partum hypothyroidism is found to be around 10% in reproductive-aged women. It is usually seen 3 to 6 months after delivery.

Signs and symptoms of post-partum hypothyroidism: Diagnosis

Post-partum hypothyroidism is often missed as its symptoms are similar to those of post-partum depression. The affected woman may experience increased fatigue, mood changes or depression. The woman may also experience intense fatigue even after sleeping for 14 to 18 hours a day. There is unexplained gain in weight which may be accompanied by swelling in different parts of the body. Other features of post-partum hypothyroidism include dryness of skin, hair loss, muscle pain, decreased appetite and cold intolerance.

The diagnosis is established by thyroid blood assay in which the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level is high and level of thyroid hormone is low. The physician may establish the diagnosis, based upon history, physical examination and laboratory testing.

Causes and prevention of post-partum hypothyroidism

The cause of post-partum hypothyroidism is considered to be autoimmune in nature. It usually results from a temporary inflammatory condition of the thyroid gland, namely lymphocytic thyroiditis. This results in underproduction of thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism.

Post-partum hypothyroidism: Complications

Post-partum hypothyroidism is generally self-limiting in nature. It may revert to normal functioning of the gland within 6 to 8 months. However, about 30% of the affected women may remain hypothyroid throughout life.

Post-partum hypothyroidism: Treatment

The post-partum hypothyroidism generally does not require any treatment in most of the affected women, since it may revert to normal thyroid hormone production within a few months. However, it is always to detect the condition timely, in order to start appropriate medication which may help in controlling hypothyroidism. Such medication may include supplements of the thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) which help in maintaining adequate levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.