Is Your Thyroid Making You Depressed?

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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!

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. I had both postpartum thyroiditis and as we learned later, severe postpartum depression and anxiety. It would be beneficial for all women that test positive for postpartum thyroiditis to be carefully monitored for PPD related illnesses AT THE SAME TIME. Due to the initial diagnosis of postpartum thyroiditis, my postpartum depression was overlooked because symptoms are so similar to a mild depression. Once my thyroid returned to normal, my postpartum depression had become so severe and I needed immediate help from a psychiatrist and therapist. I had full, major clinical depression. Doctors should consider that BOTH illnesses can occur CONCURRENTLY. Postpartum depression can be masked by other postpartum illnesses, and therefore can be so insidious. I wish my postpartum depression and anxiety was treated at the same time as my thyroid. We, including my doctors did not know. My depressive battle would have been less debilitating had treatment started earlier. I know this. Love your thyroid. I get mine checked every 3 months, even though it is normal. And my PPD is going into remission.

  2. Like Helen, I am certain that Postpartum Thyroiditis was not my only Postpartum issue, and it certainly wasn't walking around masquerading as PPD…I had PPD…that was about the only thing I could be sure of at the time I could barely manage to decide what to have for lunch I had lost myself somewhere so far away. But, because Thyroid problems can exacerbate moderate to severe PPD and can to some extent be confused with milder PPD, everyone should be screened. Maybe someday universal PPD screening will be accompanied by thyroid, anemia, diabetes, vitamin/nutrient deficiency, yeast, and comprehensive blood testing so that a mom can identify ALL the issues that could be contributing to her physical and emotional symptoms and treat them all efficiently to achieve full wellness most effectively. Our society needs to adopt a holistic approach to health…generally the cracked eggs aren't all in one basket.
    Thanks, Katherine for bringing awareness to thyroid issues and their symptoms!

  3. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks Helen and Amber for your input!
    I've added an addendum to the post above to
    make sure readers see your comments.

  4. I swore to my endocrinologist that I had Postpartum Thyroiditis and he looked at me like I had been diagnosing myself on Web MD again or something. Pissed me off really. He says I'll be on meds for the rest of my life instead of simply trying to ween me off the meds and seeing if I go all "normal" again, whatever that is. I think I need a new doctor. My co-pay just went up to $30 and we're on one income right now while my husband is back in school. Stress, Anxiety, Depression anyone?!

  5. My Story…
    I wasn't tested with my son for Thyroid issues…but I was testing during the pregnancy with my daughter and supposedly everything came back fine. I did have gestational diabetes so I was seeing an endocrinologist for that. After my girl was born I had to go back in 6 months to re-test for my sugar issues. During that time I started having serious symptoms of hypothyroidism including sever cold spells, my hair falling out in clumps, constipation…you name it I had it.
    I actually was looking at something else on the web that led me to the thyroid article and when I checked off every single thing on the list I decided to ask my Dr about it. She said that since we are doing blood work anyway for my glucose she would just add that test in as well and sure enough, my thyroid went kaput.
    I will say this…I have never felt better in MY ENTIRE LIFE as I have on my little 25mg thyroid pill. I have to wonder if it was malfunctioning for a while.
    A friend of mine had her thyroid checked a few years ago and she was in "the range" but just one or two points above hypothyroidism yet still feeling bad…she found another dr that was willing to treat her anyway and now she is 100% better as well.
    If you DO have the symptoms and they say that you are still in the acceptable range, ask where on the range you are and if you are close to the limits ask if you can be treated anyway. They would check your levels and you would have symptoms of the opposite if it was too much…which is why I go every so often to check my levels to make sure my thyroid didn't decide to start working or is decided to stop producing what little it was doing to begin with.
    If not, see if you can find another dr to help you and good luck.

  6. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences ladies!

  7. I am 6 months postpartum, diagnosed with PPD and Anxiety about 6 weeks after having little man. This week I was diagnosed with Postpartum Thyroiditis, in my case I am now hyperthyroid. I don't know if my thyroid was malfunctioning as early as 6 weeks PP, or if it just started happening. Hyperthyroid causes fast heart rate, sweating, nervousness….every single physical symptom I have when I have a panic attack. Like I said I don't know which came first, but I KNOW for sure that it has made my anxiety so much worse. If you don't have a doctor who will check your thyroid if you suspect that to be the cause go to another one. I have so much relief since finding out that ALL of it isn't in my head.

  8. Christa says:

    I thought that I had postpartum depression after my second child was born but it was actually due to my thyroid going very hyper after birth and then hypo a few months after birth. My thyroid antibody levels are very high from Graves disease that is now in remission. I have low thyroid function now and will be on thyroid medication the rest of my life. It took me 2 years until after my daughter was born to go see a doctor about my symptoms!!! I really wish I had gone sooner. If you have had any previous issues with you thyroid or have family members that have thyroid problems it is worth looking into!

  9. Please! Request that your thyroid be checked while pregnant and at least at 6 months after. I did have PPD with OCD, but a TSH level through the roof definently didn’t help.

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  1. […] your thyroid does? I didn’t, so I had to look it up before I could write about the fact that thyroiditis can cause symptoms that mimic postpartum depression.   It turns out only a minority of women with postpartum depression have symptoms caused solely by […]