Testing your thyroid
Did you know hypothyroidism is widely under diagnosed? It is estimated that 50% of women will develop thyroid issues within 5 years of having a baby. FIFTY PERCENT! Pregnancy-induced hypothyroidism is actually quite common, and because of this, thyroid testing has become more routine for freshly postpartum mamas. BUT here’s the thing: Many physicians are only performing routine testing for one factor out of the very complex thyroid equation.
If this value comes back within range, mamas are led to believe their thyroid function is normal. While this may be the case for some, it is definitely not the case for all. It took over one year of routine thyroid testing for my hypothyroid diagnosis. This is devastating for new mamas who are suffering symptoms of hypothyroidism, which very closely resemble symptoms of postpartum depression.
So what can you do? Start by asking your health care practitioner for a full thyroid panel. Here’s where to begin:
TSH, or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, is often the only thyroid lab requested by physicians in routine postpartum care. TSH is produced in the brain and sends signals to the thyroid to create Free T4. Free T4 then produces Free T3, but if the body is in stress mode, which most of us are, the Free T4 is converted to Reverse T3 and stored in the body instead of being utilized. So, you could have a normal TSH, a normal T4, but still have hypothyroidism in the body. This is just one example of the nitty gritty of thyroid health. And curious what the antibodies are for? Those are tested to rule out autoimmune hypothyroidism, aka “Hashimoto’s.”
Now, once you get have your thyroid panel tested, there are many ways to decipher the values. One important aspect of functional medicine is that the lab results are analyzed with a much narrower view of normal range. Why? Because the “normal range” is determined by the average values of the entire database of lab results. Most people getting their labs tested aren’t exactly in perfect health, otherwise, why would they get tested? With that, just know the normal range is already skewed.
Functional practitioners will look at your results compared to the values in a range of HEALTHY individuals, so what may be classified as within normal range by one less progressive practitioner will raise a red flag for another.
My hypothyroidism would have been left undiagnosed if we based the results of the “normal range".”
So what can you do? Start by asking your current doctor, midwife, naturopath or nurse practitioner for the lab tests above. It’s a great place to start. Then, make sure you get your lab results for personal reference. You’ll want to have these readily available to assess.
Of course, there are many other imbalances that attribute to thyroid health, particularly other hormones and micro nutrients. However, these thyroid labs are a great place to start, and can often help justify some of the symptoms you may have around postnatal depletion.
Most of the mothers I work with on exhaustion and burnout are all experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism.