The journey to good health following my battle with postpartum thyroiditis was a strange and isolating one. It was also a time where I found out a great deal in terms of my own health and wellbeing. In this post, I share the little things that helped me to get through postpartum thyroiditis.
1. Empower yourself with knowledge
Use the internet wisely, some respected and trusted sources are: The British Thyroid Foundation, Thyroid UK and Thyroid Trust. You can find most of what you need here in terms of information and support. For support in terms of understanding, there is a Facebook group, set up for women who have had postpartum thyroiditis, which you can find out about here
2. Follow your instincts
You know your own body. Stick with it, don’t be talked out of it. Be confident when explaining symptoms to those who are providing a diagnosis and do not doubt yourself. When you falter find an advocate – your friend, partner, mum, a person you trust, who can look into your eyes and say ‘this is your body, you know best, you’re poorly and you will be well again.’ The people who know you can see from the outside, they can rationalise when you can’t, this can be a great support when you’re not fighting fit.
3. Take someone to your appointments
Have someone that knows you inside out attended your appointments and if necessary speak on your behalf. There were times when I felt weak but having someone assert themselves for me was a real help. It also meant that on my most poorly days someone, who was not ill, was taking the information in for me and even making notes.
4. Know your thyroid function tests
This is where tip one comes in! It helped me a great deal knowing a little bit about the thyroid function tests and understanding the condition. Often Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is used a sole indicator of health and from my experience, I found there is a little more to it. Key testing for thyroid health during postpartum thyroiditis is TSH, T4 and antibodies peroxidase. For a broader understanding of overall health, linked to thyroid function, I also requested Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Ferrotin, Folic Acid, Haemoglobin and via a nutritionist my cortisol levels were tested. I am not medically trained, I am only suggesting this is what helped me.
5. Write test results down
The nature of postpartum thyroiditis is that your thyroid function is changeable. It helped me to keep a record of any test results. You can ask for a print out of your results or jot the numbers down.
6. Be prepared for appointments
I found appointments to be brief and could often go off on a tangent. Consider what you, the patient, want from the appointment, you are the centre of this journey. I recommend writing questions down and if necessary read them off a check-list before leaving. Be sure that you have everything you need in terms of information.
7. Don’t fixate on symptoms lists
The thyroid controls every cell in your body, this can cause some flippin commotion and this commotion is unique to YOU and your body. Thyroid symptoms are nebular and cannot be limited to a list. You can find a list of symptoms on the British Thyroid Foundation website, use these as a guide only if you notice any then perhaps speak to your doctor. If you have symptoms that aren’t listed or seem different, then it doesn’t mean that you’re going mad! I had insomnia and extremely broken sleep when I was in the underactive phase, contradictory to what most lists suggest.
8. Be mindful of nutrition
If your doctor is on top of your nutrition that’s great! If not ask them to be. Whilst I was unwell with postpartum thyroiditis I also discovered that I had a Vitamin D and Iron Deficiency. I was lucky enough to be able to visit Rebecca at Hello Healing who placed me on a wellness plan that really aided my recovery.
9. Practice meditation
I am a busy, non-stop type and only considered meditation after having such a positive experience with hypno-birth. Practicing meditation has been a wonderful tool that has really helped me in times of need – practice being the operative word as it’s not a quick fix. The network of people I have come across via meditation (I attend a class) has been incredibly supportive and caring so it’s a double whammy really. Marilyn Yoga has some free meditation tracks and her classes are incredible!
10. Bathe in Epsom salts
Another two in one – the Epsom salts will help to cleanse your system whilst you relax in the bath. Add some lavender to a diffuser in the bedroom after your bath to maximise the calm.
11. Go easy on yourself
Go easy on yourself and put yourself first. I found doing this nearly impossible and it was only towards the end of my journey that I really accepted this. I expected things from myself that I would not have expected from friends in the same difficult situation. Put an arm around yourself.
12. Surround yourself with friends
Surround yourself with friends that you don’t have to explain yourself to. Postpartum thyroiditis was a very silent illness where, at times, I was seemingly ok on the outside. I found myself in the company of people only to come home and feel worse like I should just pull myself together. Shelve those relationships for when you’re well. If people can’t take your word for how hard it is then they don’t know you well enough to support you.
13. Cuddle your child
On my worst days, my mum used to bath me, scrub my back, settle me down and hand Babe to me. Her little face, hands, noises, breaths kept me alive.
14. Make it positive
Postpartum thyroiditis was pretty crap but I found that finding positives helped. I started this blog, I am speaking to student midwives at Edgehill University and I have written for NCT in the hope to help others. I have met some beautiful people through meditation, I have found that I love Reiki and I have rekindled a friendship with an old school friend who went through her own battle with postpartum thyroiditis. Some days it will feel impossible but look for your own positives – it will help.
15. Give it time
The ‘strapline’ is that postpartum thyroiditis lasts between 12 – 18 months post-birth, this is how long it takes to recover from the condition. At certain points in my journey, TSH results showed ‘normal’ but I still felt quite unwell until around 14 months after the birth of my daughter. Your body has been through a BIG ordeal and is quite upset about it. I know it’s hard at such a precious time but please be patient with your body and yourself.
16. Acknowledge your symptoms
Always remember that there are well recognised psychological sequelae linked to postpartum thyroiditis and as your body recovers you will recover.