Thyroid Update: Why Postpartum is So Hard for People with Hypothyroidism and Why I Love T3 Medication

Thyroid Update: Why Postpartum is So Hard for People with Hypothyroidism and Why I Love T3 Medicationfeatured

Hi everyone,

So here’s the update I promised about my thyroid and what life’s been like the last few months.

Scared baby looks at mom with pot in her head

Truthfully, my pots haven’t been used much lately. But there are many days I’ve felt like covering my head with one to escape a migraine!

It’s been an extremely TOUGH few months because:

  • I’ve been caring for a newborn and toddler.
  • I had chronic migraines for 1 and a half months straight postpartum…everyday!!!
  • And finally I’ve had the return of my thyroid converting problem… so I’ve been hypothyroid for a few months now.

You may recall from my previous posts on thyroid issues (posted here and here) that this problem of converting T4 (storage hormone) to T3 (active hormone) is not a new one for me.

And sadly, this issue is much more common among people with hypothyroidism than doctors may want to believe.

It’s a BIG problem because without T3 your body is not getting the active form of thyroid hormone, which it needs to set off every enzymatic reaction in your body.

What I’d like to talk about today is how the post-pregnancy period is a sensitive time for people with hypothyroidism.

In fact, the postpartum time can sometimes cause pretty awful symptoms to present itself… and it may be a sign you may have an issue converting T4 into T3.

When people ask me how I feel lately all I can say is:

“I’m extraordinarily exhausted.”

Newborn yawns in mom's arms

I’m not the only one whose tired around here lately…but that’s pretty normal for a newborn!

I’ve realized that saying “I’m tired” pretty much categorizes me with the rest of the world… since every living person can relate to this, at least from time to time, and certainly those with babies can.

EXTRA-ORDINARY: The kind of tiredness I’m talking about is outside of the normal tiredness that people feel. What I’ve been feeling is a type of exhaustion that does not lift with good sleep… 10 hours won’t relive it and not even 10 hours plus a nap, plus an oversized cup of coffee.

If you’re wondering what hypothyroid symptoms are, here are a list of the ones I’ve been experiencing:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Dry skin (my feet are disgusting right now…I’d actually refuse a foot massage (out of embarassment), even if my husband begged me
  • Low body temperature – below 98.1 F (36.7 C) for me and below 98.4 F (36.9 C) for women (see the research here)
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Craving chocolate, colas and caffeine

The postpartum time is a sensitive period for people with hypothyroidism because their dose of T4 medication is very high at the end of pregnancy, which can cause a big problem for people who have a T4 to T3 conversion issue.

Why?

Well, when you go from a pregnant to non-pregnant state your requirement for T4 medication drops significantly.

If you’re like me and you have a thyroid converting issue, for reasons I will explain below, then you may find yourself in a situation like mine after your baby is born. That is… your body will take the extra T4 you needed in your 3rd trimester and convert it into reverse T3 instead of T3.

And reverse T3 will do nothing but block your receptor sites, where T3 normally works… so even the T3 your body does have will not be able to get into the receptor.

Bottom line? Your body will be deprived of the proper amount of T3 you need.

doctor pulling out his hair

You doctor may be tired of hearing how tired you are. But you let your doctor know how tired you are of feel tired. And if he doesn’t listen, get a new doctor…seriously.

According to your labs, you will look fine… even potentially hyperthyroid. But according to your symptoms, you will beg your doctor to believe you when you tell them you are certain you are hypothyroid.

Why do some people have an issue with converting T4 to T3?

Well the short and long of it is… it’s quite complicated. But I will do my best to share what I’ve learned in my obsessive search for answers.

This topic is so near and dear to me. Like I’ve said before, our boys would not be here if my thyroid converting issue was not sorted out!

But with a good doctor, who looked beyond my thyroid lab work and believed me when I said I was, “extrodinarily tired” 3 years ago, my husband and I have been able to move on with our life and start building our family.

I simply could not think of having children 3 years ago. My exhaustion was all encompassing, all consuming, and relentless.

Some people may have one of the following issues that contribute to T4 to T3 converting issues:

  • Low iron
  • Cortisol issues… basically cortisol can interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3, cortisol favours conversion to the evil reverse T3.
  • Chronic illness (boo, isn’t diabetes enough already!)
  • Chronic stress (well that includes most people, right?). This is related to high levels of cortisol being produced.
  • Possible gluten intolerance (check out the research here)

I know this stuff is kind of in the realm of alternative health, but I’m all for bridging conventional medicine with holistic medicine. In fact, I think the two would work much better together!

Check out Dr. Kristy Prouse whose managed to link conventional medicine with holistic medicine… I plan to see her one day. She’s a former OB/GYN whose started a holistic clinic in Toronto, Canada.

Let’s talk about my treatment plan…

Thanks to my excellent doctor, who listens to my symptoms, not just my lab results… I’ve been able to start treatment on T3 medication, which is compounded at a pharmacy.

The problem with lab work is that it can mask hypothyroidism, so it’s really important to have lab work that looks at more than just TSH.

Personally, my doctor looks at free T3, free T4, and I also have a test sent to the US to measure reverse T3 levels…there are no labs that test for this in Canada (can you tell most doctors don’t believe this converting issue exists?).

Some good thyroid doctors will tell you that you don’t really need to test for reverse T3, but personally, I want to know where my problems are stemming from… and I want proof that I’m not crazy.

If you’re looking for a doctor in your area who may be supportive of your thyroid needs check out this list.

My plan will be to eventually switch to Thyroid (made by Erfa in Canada), yeah “Thyroid” is the name of the medication…how creative, eh?

Thyroid by Erfa is a desiccated product made from the thyroid gland of pigs. Desiccated just means dried. And many people with thyroid converting issues claim to feel better on this medication.

Cute baby give mom a dirty look

Black Top gives me a dirty look and tells me to “lighten up”. It seemed like the right place for a cute baby pic since this has been a more serious post.

My thyroid friendly endocrinologist personally prefers Erfa’s Thyroid over T3 compounded medication because it contains T1, T2, T3, T4 and calcitonin. And I can follow his theory since he says we don’t really know the function of these other hormones in the body, so why take a medication without them.

My plan with being on pure sustained release T3 has been to clear up these horrible symptoms so I can go on to be a “normal mom”.  

So I figure, get rid of the T4 for now, so it won’t be converting to reverse T3… and in a few months start on Erfa’s Thyroid.

So that’s the long and short of what life’s been like for the last couple months.

Here’s to hoping for a Spring that brings beautiful weather… and a mommy who has the energy to sing and dance and read with her babes. :)

About the author

Melissa Shannon

Melissa Shannon is diabetes obsessed! She's a diabetes nurse, diabetes advocate, and person with type one diabetes. Melissa loves sharing stories about life with diabetes and is a passionate speaker and diabetes evangelist. Melissa's motto is: "Let's not let diabetes rule our lives, let's have diabetes to go!"