Your Postpartum Fatigue Could Be A Sign Of Thyroid Problems

Your postpartum fatigue could be a sign of thyroid problems

Soon after the birth of my first son in 2006, I was overwhelmed with a debilitating fatigue that never seemed to end. I wished every night to sleep like a baby and hoped to wake up refreshed in the morning like my pre-pregnancy self. Instead I woke every morning struggling to get up for my newborn baby and make it through the day. There are no words to describe the exhaustion I felt that year except to say it was an awful sick tired that no amount of sleep could alleviate. Looking back I don’t know how I made it through that year of my life.

Whenever my son would wake in the night for his feeding in the initial months, I would find myself drenched in sweat with my heart pounding and then be unable to fall back asleep. The pregnancy weight initially came off very easily and quickly. However several months later I noticed that the weight started packing on faster and faster and I couldn’t stop the weight gain no matter what I tried.

My doctor said that it was normal for new mothers to be tired and to struggle with pregnancy weight. She said good-bye and passed me prescriptions for sleeping pills and anti-depressants. However this didn’t seem normal to me. This didn’t feel like a new mother struggling with sleep deprivation. This felt like every part of my body was shutting down and I had an inner sick feeling. My instincts told me she was wrong. I did not know then that I should have insisted my doctor check my thyroid levels. I just didn’t know.

By my son’s first birthday, he was sleeping through the night but still I felt an overpowering fatigue weighing me down. My weight continued to climb. My hair was falling out. The heels of my feet were cracked and my scalp itched. My legs were numb to the touch. Unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, chronic constipation, and constant infections plagued me. From being a healthy woman prior to pregnancy, now my cholesterol and blood sugar levels were sky high and my blood pressure was abnormally low.

Then when my son was 15 months old, painful kidney stones landed me in the emergency room. The doctor unsure of the cause of my stones decided to do a full blood work up. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism that day in the ER.

What had happened to me?

Postpartum Thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition in which the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, becomes inflamed and dysfuncional in the first year after childbirth. Pregnancy is a time of complex hormonal changes and therefore a time when women are particularly vulnerable to developing thyroid dysfunction.

In a large quantitative review that included 21 published articles encompassing a total of over 8000 women, the pooled prevalence of postpartum thyroid dysfunction was 8.1%. According to this study reported in Thyroid, postpartum thyroid dysfunction occurs in 1 of 12 women in the general population worldwide, and 1 of 17 women in the United States.[1]

According to the 2011 Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum, the “classical form” of postpartum thyroiditis consists of an initial period of transient hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) followed by transient hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) with a return to normal by the end of the initial postpartum year. The hyperthyroid phase typically occurs between 2 and 6 months postpartum, followed by the hypothyroid phase around 3 to 12 months postpartum. 25% of women present with this classical form, 32% with isolated hyperthyroidism, and 43% with isolated hypothyroidism.[2]

I experienced the classical form of postpartum thyroiditis through my first postpartum year with a distinct hyperthyroidism phase during the first initial months of my son’s life followed by hypothyroidism that started some time around the 6th month postpartum.

Each woman may experience symptoms differently, however here is a list of common symptoms:

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

• Sudden weight loss

• Rapid heartbeat and palpitations

• Nervousness, anxiety and irritability

• Sweating

• More frequent bowel movements

• Fatigue

• Muscle weakness

• Difficulty sleeping

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

• Fatigue

• Unexplained weight gain

• Constipation

• Pale, dry skin

• Elevated blood cholesterol level

• Puffy face

• Increased sensitivity to cold

• Muscle aches and weakness

• Heavier than normal menstrual periods

• Brittle fingernails and hair

• Depression

While some women spontaneously recover by the end of the first postpartum year, a recently published article based on a large-scale study in Italy reported that 54% of women with postpartum thyroiditis have persistent hypothyroidism at the end of the first postpartum year.[3] I am one of the many women who never recovered postpartum.

Six years later I am still hypothyroid. However by taking charge of my thyroid health and by finding a top thyroid doctor, I am in excellent health despite my hypothyroidism.

I often wonder what would have happened to me if the emergency room physician on duty the day I developed painful kidney stones had not checked my thyroid levels. I would be a very sick, tired woman today with no idea that my thyroid was to blame.


1. Nicholson, W.K., Robinson, K.A., Smallridge, R.C., Ladenson, P.W., Powe, N.R. Prevalence of postpartum thyroid dysfunction: a quantitative review. Thyroid 2006;16(6):573–82.

2. Stagnaro-Green, A., Abalovich, M., Alexander, E., Azizi, F., Mestman, J., Negro, R., Nixon, A., Pearce, E.N., Soldin, O.P., Sullivan, S., and Wiersinga, W. Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum. Retrieved from

3. Stagnaro-Green A, Schwartz A, Gismondi R, Tinelli A, Mangieri T, Negro R 2011 High rate of persistent hypothyroidism in a large-scale prospective study of postpartum thyroiditis in southern Italy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96:652–657.

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. I’m trying to figure out what is going on with my body. I’m having pain and tingling in my hands and feet, joint paint (mostly in my knuckles and wrists) sore and weak muscles, extremes hair loss, mood swings (when typically my mood is pretty stable), unexplained weight gain (like 12-15lbs in the last 8 weeks!) and fatigue and just an overall sense that my body is not happy. My 3rd baby is 18 months and most of these symptoms started up a few months ago (although the fatigue and tingling in my feet have been there since birth). Had my thyroid levels checked and they all came back in the normal range. Doctor checked for a bunch of other stuff too and everything came back normal except for I’m deficient in b12 and iron. Been on supplements for these two (also including magnesium, vitamin c, vitamin d and probiotics) for over a month and my symptoms are getting worse. Trying to figure out if my thyroid can be off even if my numbers are in the normal range. Do you know about this? Perhaps my baseline for a healthy thyroid is higher than where I’m at right now? They say they will check for MS next but I just feel like it’s my thyroid. I’ve got to start feeling better soon and stop gaining weight. All of my clothes are getting too tight!!

    • It is possible your supplements are causing some problems. Sometimes too much of one thing can cause these symptoms. Also, postpartum anxiety can have a lot of these symptoms…

    • Hi!! Going through same symptoms, my daughter is 11 months. Trying to get to the bottom of it. My thyroid levels were a little high but my doctor didn’t test further. Scared I have ms. Any insight to how you are doing would be great to hear!

  2. Brenda Trohon says

    Thank you for this. I was diagnosed today and I’m trying to learn more about it.

  3. Just Helping says

    Go somewhere else!

  4. After having my son 7 years ago c section everything was fine up till the 6 week mark i stacked on the kgs but my hair was just falling out by the fist full.i went 2 dr she looked at me like u big fat woman get of your bum and exercise but like i told her i wasnt able 2 do anything 4 weeks after and they tell u not 2 lift anything and so on finaly i got the clear 2 and so i started walking everywhere working and what have u but my wait just went out of control i cut out bread and carbs but it got worse till i was 120 kgs my self-esteem was shot i didnt feel like a woman i wasnt having sex it hert and i was ashamed of my partner just loved me no matter what but i didnt feel good now this led 2 us spliting up i went on a down hill fall and things went really bad i tock 2 other methods 2 loose wait and that led 2 destruction and hart ake.ive just had my second baby i was 62 when i got pregnet and kept a fit body frame the hole way through up untill 6-8 weeks after having things have changed im stacking on wait and i walk all day everyday now i eat healthy no suger drinks and so on but all of a sudden im stacking it on but last 3 weeks my hair is falling out so bad my finger nails just brake and split and a few other things but most of all wait and now hair.after going 2 dr last time and she maid me feel not great and that it was just me over eating im a little embarrassed going 2 dr but i no theres somthing wrong and last time it destroyed my life and i cant let that happen again but my dr now he isnt the most easy dr 2 be able 2 talk 2 he reminds me of my old dr and i dont want 2 be maid feel like its just me because i think when u no within yourself that u arnt feeling right theres somthing wrong u no better than anyone.if i go 2 my same practice is it out of line 2 request a different dr or should i go somewhere elce?

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