birth · health · post-partum · pregnancy · thyroid

Could You Have Post-Partum Thyroiditis? I Do!

Any regular readers of this blog will know that for a few months now I’ve had some mysterious medical issues that my doctors have been somewhat baffled by. I’ve had blood tests, an MRI of my pituitary, and a scan of my thyroid with radioactive technetium. Despite being told at the hospital that the results of my scans would be available within a couple of days, it took a month before anyone actually got back to me with the results. I tried to take that as a sign that it wasn’t anything incredibly serious, but anyone who’s had extensive dealings with my hospital’s admin systems would know that you wouldn’t want to stake anything particularly important on their effective functioning (like, say, your long term health…)

Anyway, I finally heard from a doctor, and he confirmed that they believe I have a condition called post-partum thyroiditis. Even though I already have a pre-existing thyroid condition, I’d never heard of this quite common post-pregnancy thyroid illness. So what is post-partum thyroiditis?

Post-partum Thyroiditis

What is post-partum thyroiditis?

Long story short, this is caused by your thyroid gland going a bit haywire due to a rebounding immune system after pregnancy. It typically starts with having thyroid hormones that are too high (hyperthyroidism) for a few months. Then it either just returns to normal, or the thyroid hormones dip too low (hypothyroidism) for a few months – or even permanently.

How would I know if I have it?

Post-partum thyroiditis is actually quite a common condition with around 5 – 10% of women experiencing it, although a lot of the time the symptoms are just ascribed to normal post-pregnancy recovery. Most women initially experience hyperthyroidism – symptoms can include a racing heartrate, anxiety, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, achey muscles, twitching or shaking, feeling hot or sweating a lot, and weight loss. Obviously most of those could easily be ascribed to the post-birth recovery period and/or sleep loss thanks to your new baby.

The only way to know for sure if you have post-partum thyroiditis is to have blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. So if you’re concerned that you may have this condition, please make sure you speak to your doctor about it.

How is post-partum thyroiditis treated?

Hyperthyroidism as a result of post-partum thyroiditis (let’s just call it PPT) is not usually treated beyond beta blockers to reduce the impact of the symptoms of fast heartrate, anxiety, etc. Conveniently, I’m already taking beta blockers as my doctors tend to prescribe them at the first sign of hyperthyroidism, as my heart loves to go too fast and will take literally any excuse to do so.

Hypothyroidism might need to be treated with replacement thyroid hormone if it becomes severe enough. I’m hoping we don’t have to go there.

How long does postpartum thyroiditis last?

How long is a piece of string? Unfortunately, it seems that postpartum thyroiditis is a very variable condition and each woman has a different experience, so there’s no way of saying how long my postpartum thyroiditis will last. It could be a few months, a year, or even longer – sometimes the side effects are permanent.

What are the risk factors for postpartum thyroiditis?

The big question for me was whether my existing pituitary condition (which affects my thyroid) creates a risk factor for postpartum thyroiditis. A quick Google indicates that I’m not the only person with a TSHoma to go on to develop post-partum thyroiditis. But because my pituitary tumour is so rare, when anything out of the ordinary happens the doctors don’t really know what to expect. However, previous history of thyroid issues is a known risk factor for post-partum thyroiditis, as is a history of auto-immune illness.

What are the implications for me personally?

It’s just a case of wait and see, and hope I don’t end up with low thyroid levels, as that could make things complicated in terms of treating it and my pituitary tumour. So please keep your fingers crossed for me!

In the meantime, I’m back to monthly blood tests to monitor my thyroid level and regularly checking in with the hospital.

Are you a postpartum thyroiditis patient in the UK? I’d love to hear about your experience! Let me know in the comments.

asthma · birth · health · pituitary · pregnancy

My Experience of Asthma in Pregnancy and Birth

Well, I’ve written about my experiences with hypermobility in pregnancy and birth, and again about how my pituitary tumour impacted my pregnancy and birth. So it seems logical to write about how my asthma impacted me as well, and complete the trilogy… How did pregnancy affect my asthma?

My Experience of Asthma in Pregnancy

But I’ve been in two minds about writing this post, because actually my asthma barely affected me at all! In fact I noticed a massive improvement in my asthma symptoms while I was pregnant. Normally they’re worst around June; my asthma seems to be particularly triggered by hayfever and then made worse by humid weather. Last year when I was pregnant, I spent the end of May in Japan at a family wedding, and when I got back I realised my asthma seemed much better than usual. Seems strange, huh?

Does pregnancy make asthma better or worse?

I spoke to my asthma nurse about this recently when I went for a review (she’s the best! Shout out to all the awesome asthma nurses out there). She said that roughly a third of people with asthma notice an improvement of their symptoms in pregnancy, a third notice a deterioration, and for the rest there’s no change. So I guess I was one of the lucky 33%. I felt so crap being pregnant anyway, I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with my asthma playing up too.

Why does pregnancy affect my asthma?

Looking online, there are plenty of asthma sites which also advise that asthma may improve or worsen in pregnancy. But none of them seem to explain why. I assume it’s the usual “pregnancy hormones” explanation, which is so vague as to be no explanation at all. So I’m awarding a gold star to any health professional who can let me know in the comments below why specifically it is that asthma is so variable in pregnancy!

Does asthma affect you when giving birth?

I also didn’t find that my asthma affected the birthing process, fortunately. As I have exercise-induced asthma, I did wonder whether labour could trigger my asthma at all. I took my inhalers to the hospital with me (make sure you have spares in your hospital bag just in case!). But luckily, I didn’t need them during the birth.

In fact, apparently asthma attacks during labour are very rare, which is believed to be because of the natural steroids that your body produces during labour. The Asthma UK website has more information about asthma and birth, which may also reassure you.

What were your experiences of asthma during pregnancy and birth? Let me know in the comments!

my experience of asthma in pregnancy and birth the sickly mama blog
birth · health · parenting · post-partum · pregnancy

Post-Partum Body Bullshit

After having a baby, you expect to have a tummy and some weight to lose. That much is expected! But there’s so much weird body stuff that lingers after pregnancy that I didn’t really know about. I suppose that other than the weight, possible stretch marks, and any scars from c-sections or episiotomy etc., I assumed everything else would go back to normal. Oh, how wrong I was!

And even though some of it is minor in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s still okay to find it difficult that your body has changed in ways you weren’t expecting. So, I thought I’d write about it…

Post-Partum Body Bullshit: Weird Stuff Your Body Does After Pregnancy

Post-Partum Hairloss

This one is the worst! I have had issues with hair loss for over ten years, thanks to my pituitary issues. For the last four years or so, since my symptoms have mostly been under control with medication, my hair has been growing back slowly, although it’s still a bit patchy in places. But when I was pregnant, my hair improved so much! It got thick and shiny and generally great. In fact it was pretty much the only good thing about being pregnant (other than getting the baby at the end, obviously!)

Hair tends to get thicker during pregnancy, but not because you’re growing more hair – actually, it’s because it’s falling out less. Strange but true. Of course, what that means is that sooner or later, your scalp needs to catch up on all the hair it would normally have lost during those nine months of pregnancy. Enter post-partum hair loss, which normally kicks in about three months after giving birth.

Even though I know it’s totally normal, I’m still finding it a bit stressful to be pulling handfuls of hair out of my hairbrush on a regular basis. It just takes me back to when my own hair loss was really really bad before my tumor was diagnosed, which was a horrible, stressful time.

Annoyingly, my amazing pregnancy lips, which to be fair also looked great and incredibly plump during pregnancy, vanished almost as soon as Little Man was out! Now I’m back to relying on lipstick again…

Moles and Skin Tags

I’ve always had a lot of moles and freckles, but when I got pregnant they went into overdrive! New moles and skin tags appeared everywhere, often seemingly overnight, and they’re still here four months after having had the baby. They particularly seem to have arisen on my chest, back, and belly. Existing moles have also grown, and in some cases turned kind of scaly (ew, sorry).

The development of moles and skin tags in pregnancy is associated with all the oestrogen sloshing around your body. I’ve had my moles checked over by a doctor and she’s said that the changes appear normal and nothing to worry about. But I can’t help but be unimpressed with this new weird bobbly skin.

Weird Tan Lines

So there’s a thing that happens in pregnancy called the linea nigra, a dark line of hyperpigmented skin that runs down your belly. Typically it shows up around the second trimester, caused by pregnancy hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which stimulate the production of melanin in your skin. You may also notice skin darkening on your face and elsewhere as a result of the same process.

When you read about linea nigra online, most sites say it should disappear a few months after delivery. Well, I’m four months out and mine hasn’t faded a bit despite not getting any sunshine. And there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on what to expect, because some other sites say that the line may take a year to fade – or never go away at all.


As well as my linea nigra, I seem to have developed a patch of unpigmented skin on the right hand side of my belly. I’m quite pale so it’s not super noticeable, but it’s big enough that you can see it if you look for it. I haven’t found anything online that suggests that this is a thing which happens with pregnancy, but it definitely wasn’t there before!

What weird post-partum side effects have you had? Let me know in the comments!

birth · health · hypermobility · pain · pregnancy

My Experience of Joint Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder and Pregnancy

I thought it might be useful to write a post about my experience of Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (formerly known as Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, apparently rheumatologists like renaming stuff) during pregnancy, as I would have found it helpful to read something like this when I was pregnant!

What is hypermobility spectrum disorder?

Basically it’s an overarching term for a group of conditions relating to joint hypermobility – i.e. in simplest terms, your joints extend more than they’re supposed to. I was diagnosed with it when I was 17, although at that point they called it joint hypermobility syndrome.

I actually meet the diagnostic criteria for a condition called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) although I’ve never been formally diagnosed with it. I did once see a dermatologist about something totally unrelated, and as it turns out he specialised in the dermatology of hEDS and was very excited to run a bunch of tests on my skin.

Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder and Pregnancy

How can hypermobility affect pregnancy and birth?

I was referred to an obstetrician once I was pregnant, thanks to all my stupid medical conditions, and she discussed the key potential issues from my hypermobility spectrum disorder and pregnancy, which basically are:

  • Risk of the birth progressing quite quickly once you reach 4cm dilated.
  • Risk of poor or slow wound healing.
  • Risk of resistance to local anaesthetic.
  • Risk of waters breaking early.
  • Risk of additional pain during pregnancy due to the extra weight and hormone changes placing stress on the joints.

So which of these issues did I actually encounter? I’ll go over them in order…

Increased joint pain during pregnancy

Oh boy did I get this one. It actually started very early too, around week 12 or 13 – well before any significant weight gain, so I assume the issue was caused by the hormone relaxin, which your body produces during pregnancy and causes joints to loosen. If you already have loose, hypermobile joints, that’s not great.

You’re recommended to sleep on your side during pregnancy, but I found that when I slept on one side, the hip on the bottom would gradually partially dislocate during the night and it would eventually wake me up with the pain. Then I’d swap sides, and it would repeat on the other side. By the end of the night I would only be getting maybe half an hour on each side before the pain woke me up, and my joints were so sore and stiff in the mornings. It was not fun, and it got worse as my baby bump got bigger.

I did, however, find that physiotherapy really helped. I saw a great NHS physio who have me exercises to strengthen the muscles around my hips and it made a massive difference to my pain levels, although it didn’t cure it completely.

I’m now four months out from the birth and I would say that although the sleeping pain resolved basically as soon as I have birth, I can feel that the pregnancy has had a lasting effect on my left hip joint, which feels noticeably less stable and more often painful than previously.

Premature rupture of membranes

My waters broke at 36 weeks and 5 days, which is technically premature, but only just (37 weeks is technically full term). Premature rupture of membranes (waters breaking early, if you’re not a doctor) is a risk of hypermobility, so it’s possible that it was related.

Hypermobility and rapid labour

I didn’t go into labor naturally but was induced due to my waters breaking. I was put on the syntocinon drip and told to expect to progress by dilating about half a centimetre per hour. The midwife said she would check on my dilation at about the four hour mark, and that she expected me to progress about half a centimetre dilation per hour.

Two hours later I was in massive amounts of pain, they weren’t letting me have gas and air (because they said you had to be 4cm dilated first) and I felt that I definitely couldn’t cope with another 12 hours or more of it, so I asked for an epidural. The midwife put in the request, but the anaesthetists were in theatre so it wasn’t going to happen any time soon. Shortly afterwards, I got the very distinct feeling that my body was starting to push. I told the midwife but she didn’t seem that bothered. Fortunately, my husband then insisted that she check how dilated I was. She had a look, realised I was fully dilated and that I was indeed pushing.

Then it was panic stations! The midwife apparently had to write loads of stuff on the computer at this point, and thus had to call in a second midwife to take over with me.

Although the dilation stage had happened really quickly, the pushing stage did not. Fortunately they did let me have gas and air at last, which helped a lot with the pain.

They wanted the baby out within two hours of starting pushing (not sure if this is standard or due to the fact my waters had broken a long time before and they were worried about infection). At some point, a doctor appeared and said that if I didn’t make good progress in the next two pushes, they were going to do an emergency caesarian. Seemingly I did make enough progress, because she went away again. Then, some time later, a couple of other doctors appeared and said I had two pushes before they would do a ventouse (suction cup) delivery.

Resistance to anaesthetic

In order to get the baby out, they had to do an episiotsomy, which then needed stitches. They gave me local anaesthetic before the stitches, but it really didn’t work, I kept telling the doctor doing the stitching that I could feel it. So I guess I did have the resistance to local anaesthetic issue.

They didn’t seem to be clued up on my hypermobility and the plan to manage it during the birth, because they also used the normal dissolvable thread for the stitches, instead of the silk sutures I was supposed to have, to assist in case of poor wound healing. The dissolvable stitches were okay for me in the end fortunately. One stitch broke, but that could have been because I did so much walking to and from the neonatal intensive care unit in the week after Little Man was born (he developed a very serious case of jaundice and had to go into NICU). I didn’t notice any issues with healing, thankfully.

To be fair, the mess up with the stitches and the insufficient local anaesthetic may have been due to the fact that after Little Man arrived, I had a big post-partum haemorrhage. The alarms went off and lots of doctors and nurses suddenly appeared in the room, luckily I didn’t need a blood transfusion but was put on a drip and super woozy. So it was all a bit crazy in the delivery room, and I can see how things were missed. But I did think it was disappointing that, despite having flagged a lot of these potential issues well before the birth, we were still left with them not being managed very well – especially the rapid labour. Looking back I am annoyed that I was in so much pain with no pain relief and they didn’t even think to check my dilation to see whether things had progressed further than they were expecting.

What advice do I have for other hypermobile mamas-to-be?

If you’re pregnant and have hypermobility or hEDS, I recommend flagging it early to the hospital, but being prepared to advocate for yourself in the delivery room. It’s hard to do when you’re actually in labour yourself, so make sure your birth partner knows about your hypermobility and how it can affect pregancy and birth, and that they’re confident to advocate for you. I dread to think how long I would have been pushing before they thought to check my dilation, if it hadn’t been for my husband advocating for me.

I also highly recommend physiotherapy, as early in the pregnancy as possible. A lot of hospitals have long waiting lists for physio, so try to get on the list as early as possible.

Are you a mum who’s hypermobile? Let me know about your experiences with pregnancy and birth in the comments!