Are you aware of your thyroid? I'm not. I couldn't even tell you where it is exactly.
SinceJanuary isapparently thyroid awareness month, (can you believe we almost missed it?!) I thought we could find out together. The Healthy Women website states that the thyroid gland is at the base of your neck, just below the voicebox or larynx. (They say it's butterfly-shaped. Lovely!)The thyroidproduces hormones that impact the body's metabolism, among other things.
Why does this matter to women with postpartum depression? Because, as Dr. Shoshanna Bennett explains in Postpartum Depression for Dummies:
"About 10 percent of new moms develop postpartum thyroiditis, which means that the postpartum gland is inflamed. This condition can result in temporary hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are tiredness, depression, weight gain and loss of memory … If[a new mom's]depressed due to a thyroid imbalance, all the antidepressants and therapy in the world wouldn't fix it."
I was never given a thyroid test, so I won't ever know whether it could have contributed to my symptoms. Odds are it didn't, becauseonly very few women who present with postpartum depression symptoms actually have postpartum thyroiditis. As Dr. Ruta Nonacs writes in A Deeper Shade of Blue, "… it appears that only a small number of cases of postpartum depression can be attributed to thyroid dysfuntion." The American College of Endocrinology also reports that it's pretty rare.
Nonacsdoes go on to say, though, as does Bennett, that it would be a good idea for doctors to screen women who have depressive symptoms during pregnancy or postpartum for thyroiditis. Makes sense to me.
Interestingly, nowhere in Healthy Women's downloadable brochure "Fast Facts for Your Health: Thyroid Disease & Women" does it mention that a poorly functioning thyroid can lead to symptoms that mimic postpartum depression. I also checked WomensHealth.gov. They mention postpartum thyroiditis, but never mention the fact that ithas the potential tobe misdiagnosed as postpartum depression. I know it's rare, which is probably why they don't mention it. But for those few, it seems to me it would be wrong to put them on antidepressant meds or some other such thing if that's not what they need at all.
Anyway, wish your thyroid a happy celebration month. I wonder what flavor of cake Thyroid would like …
P.S. Be sure to read the comments below fromsome moms who had both postpartum thyroiditis and postpartum depression. They share what happened to them. Thanks ladies!