A Bit of a Medical Rant

Those of you who are also my facebook friends may have noticed a little rant in my status update the other day following a visit to our new GPs surgery. It went something like this:
GP: …and you’re hypothyroid?
me: Yes, after having my baby
GP: oh! That’s very unusual!
Me: er, no it’s actually very common
hmm I feel a ranting blog post coming on as soon as I get time for a ranting blog post!
Well I finally got time, here’s the ranting blog post.
Postpartum thyroiditis (PPT) is caused by the immune system, which is suppressed in pregnancy, coming back all over enthusiastic after the birth and attacking the mothers own thyroid. Exactly how common it is is up for debate, one study suggested that 16.7% of British mothers were effected although most put the figure at around 7-8%. Either way that is a lot of women and yet my GP thought it was a rare condition.
 It’s funny how the medical professions and indeed the media are falling over themselves to talk to you about some aspects of pregnancy, birth and babies but other things you just never hear about. Breast feeding, pelvic floors, breast feeding, postnatal depression, breast feeding oh and breast feeding tick, tick tick, but had you ever heard of PPT?
The problem with PPT is the symptoms. Well ok that’s the problem with most illnesses but you’ll see what I mean if I list some of them: Tiredness, depression, weight gain/failure to loose weight, bad hair and nails, aches etc. During pregnancy you spend months listening to everyone (regardless of whether they’ve had kids or not) telling you that your body will be ruined, you’ll never sleep again yada yada yada. Throw in a fairly epic labour, an emergency c-section and of course looking after a baby and I could just imagine the conversation with the GP:
Me: Ever since I had a baby I’ve felt really tired and rubbish
GP: er, yes, you were expecting what, exactly?
Fortunately for me I have a very eagle eyed medical student friend who spotted that I had a slight goitre (swelling in the neck) this is one of the few clear indicators of Thyroid problems (but one that doesn’t occur in everyone) and after a few blood tests I was diagnosed and started treatment. The good part is that PPT is very easy to treat, I just pop a pill once a day and as this simply replaces something the body is missing  there are no side effects. I will have to have regular blood tests to check that I am on the right dose and to see if it eventually goes away by itself (which is the case for most women) but oh my goodness do I feel better! Before starting the pills I felt as though I had aged 20 years and had gone from a fairly young and healthy woman to someone dragging her aged body through life. now I’m pretty much back to my old (younger) self.
This all reminded me of another Mum I met a few months before my diagnosis. We got chatting and she told me how she felt constantly tired, aching and old, just like me. Also like me she attributed it to a difficult birth, an emergency c-section and being in her thirties, as her daughter approached one, she and her husband had decided not to have any more children as she just couldn’t face going through it all again. I have no idea if she’d been to the doctor about it and had her thyroid checked, but I do wonder. 
My PPT is fairly mild, it’s not some terrible life threatening thing but wouldn’t it be sad to think that there are Mums out there who’d like another child, but just don’t feel capable of it when all they need is one little pill once a day. This doesn’t seem to be a condition that midwives, health visitors or GPs are on the look out for, or even aware of in some cases. I know there are a few of our friends who read this and are working on bumps of their own right now or planning to in the near future, just pop this in the back of your mind in case you need it. Better to have a doctor think you’re a silly woman than to feel too worn out to enjoy your baby.

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