Caring for a newborn infant is an exciting time for many. However, it can also be a time of increased worries, responsibilities, and stress. Postpartum experiences of anxiety, mood swings, anger, difficulty sleeping and crying spells are known to many. If these continue over several weeks, consider if a thyroid imbalance is adding to what you are feeling. Thyroid imbalance can be a trigger of the depression or a contributing factor.
Many women struggle through this period and may feel isolated, especially when others have trouble coping with their changes in mood and behaviour.
On her website 'HypothyroidMom', Dana Trentini 1, has a heart wrenching story of a newly postpartum 2nd time mum with extreme postpartum depression who envisioned harming her baby yet knowing she would never do this. Her TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) level was 100 (normal functional range is 1.8 to 3.0 mU/L 2, 3 ). She was not crazy. She had a extreme hypothyroidism.
Two further stories highlight the impact of depression and thyroid imbalance. Robyn Sheldon shares her story of postpartum hypothyroidism and depression and how it impacted her ability to breast feed 4. Stacey Rivera’s story is titled “A Sneaky Disease Tricked Me Into Thinking I Had Postpartum Depression” 5.
Postpartum depression shares many symptoms with thyroid disease. It is imperative for the health and wellbeing of mothers and infants that we distinguish between the two, provide the optimum care every woman deserves, and not attribute these symptoms to the demands of caring for a new infant 6.
Research shows that when postnatal depression affects a mother’s ability to provide the care her baby needs, it may impact on their development especially when the depression continues for a long time 7. 8.
Thyroid Imbalance and Post Partum Depression
Thyroid imbalance occurs quite frequently in the postpartum period. “Research shows that 5% to 12% of all women have postpartum autoimmune thyroiditis. Half to two thirds of these women experience hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or both in the postpartum period” 7.
Thyroid imbalance can also cause or exacerbate postpartum depression especially in women who already feel vulnerable. And if you have postpartum depression, you have a higher frequency of positive anti-thyroid antibodies which are a marker for autoimmune thyroid disease 7.
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause depression postpartum.
Much of this is little publicised. Thyroid imbalance and its many symptoms, may be creating or contributing to a woman experiencing postpartum depression. Guilt around her inability to cope with demands and the care of her little one, plus subconscious fears of mothering, and real or perceived lack of support from husband or family will exacerbate the depression.
All women with a history of depression or any symptoms of thyroid disease (high or low), need to be tested for thyroid imbalance.
If you are on antidepressants, it is advisable to talk to your doctor about taking a closer look at your thyroid condition and be sure your thyroid testing includes “at a minimum TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies 10. Consider also other potential underlying medical conditions for depression such as anaemia, PCOS, Celiac Disease and PMS 9.
Those with Thyroid Disease frequently have low zinc levels. When zinc is low, copper is usually high as these two minerals work in with one another. Although high copper may or may not be associated with Thyroid Disease, it can be implicated in Postnatal Depression so I wish to address it within this article.
Part 5 will explore the connection of Postpartum Depression and levels of Copper.
1. Trentini, D. (2012). Hashimoto’s Disease: The Danger of Thyroid Antibodies and Pregnancy http://hypothyroidmom.com/hashimotos-disease-the-danger-of-thyroid-antibodies-and-pregnancy/
2. Kharrazian, D. (2010). Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When my Lab Tests Are Normal. Elephant Press: Carlsbad California.
3. Hashimoto’s Awareness. (2017). An Interview with Dana Trentini of Hypothyroid Mom http://www.hashimotosawareness.org/dana-trentini-of-hypothyroid-mom/
4. Sheldon, R. (2015). Postpartum Hypothyroidism: How it led to depression & breastfeeding problems. https://www.twiniversity.com/2014/08/postpartum-hypothyroidism-how-it-led-to-depression-breastfeeding-problems/
5. Rivera, S. (2011). A Sneaky Disease Tricked Me Into Thinking I Had Postpartum Depression. http://thestir.cafemom.com/healthy_living/129191/a_sneaky_disease_tricked_me
6. Pereira, K. & Brown, A. J. (2008). Postpartum Thyroiditis: Not Just a Worn Out Mom http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/574462_5
7. Arem, R. (2007). The Thyroid Solution. Ballantine Books: New York.
8. Dach, J. (2016). Low Thyroid, Hashimotos and Pregnancy http://jeffreydachmd.com/2016/11/low-thyroid-hashimotos-pregnancy/
9. Trentini, D. (2013). The Truth About Hypothyroidism And Depression. http://hypothyroidmom.com/the-truth-about-hypothyroidism-and-depression/