If you've recently had a baby and you're feeling tired and depressed or having trouble losing weight, you might be tempted to consider these symptoms the inevitable result of the postpartum blues and blahs. If the symptoms persist for months after childbirth, however, you may be suffering from a condition called postpartum thyroiditis, a malfunctioning of the thyroid gland that can throw your metabolism off kilter and leave you feeling out of sorts.
In fact, about 1 in 15 new mothers suffers from this condition, but it often goes undiagnosed, says Amos Grunebaum, M.D., director of obstetrics at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.
The thyroid seems to slow down during pregnancy but revs up again after birth, releasing an excess of hormones. In most cases the thyroid then reverts to normal, but in postpartum hypothyroidism the damaged thyroid may become underactive for a time.
A blood test can determine whether your thyroid gland has stopped putting out enough hormones to keep your metabolism functioning properly, so ask your doctor to perform one if your symptoms continue three months or more after your baby's birth. Though the condition sometimes clears up on its own, taking a thyroid hormone replacement pill once daily for 6 to 11 months can work wonders -- and it's safe to take while breastfeeding.