When I was in my freshman year of high school, there was a physical yearly checkup at the school and a doctor told me that I may have Grave’s disease. In follow up, I went to see the doctor at a hospital but my diagnosis of Grave’s disease was not confirmed. However, my mother, who came along with me for the doctor visit, was told that she might have Grave’s disease. She had to follow up with the doctor every month for the next 8 months. Graves’ disease is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).
Recently, I watched a documentary video series called “Thyroid Secret”. The video described that so many people had and have been struggling with thyroid disease, but unfortunately are misdiagnosed with depression or are told the symptoms are just all in their head. More interestingly this thyroid condition affects fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and the babies, yet many doctors are not following the appropriate protocols. So, I would like to share the stories of one of the episodes, “Motherhood Interrupted”.
The number of women having kids after age 35 is again on the rise. According to the CDC, 6.1% percent of married women aged 15-44 are infertile (1 million people), and 11.3% percent of women aged 15-44 have used infertility services: (6.9 million people). There are number of factors related to infertility; however, the thyroid condition is often overlooked.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the blood tests infertility clinics normally order are day 3 follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estradiol (E2), prolactin, Total Testosterone, Free Testosterone, DHEAS, and Androstenedione. Some clinics may also test anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), progesterone (P4), 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP), thyroxin (T4), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and Free T3. The words in Bold are the one related to Thyroid.
One of the speakers, Dana Trentini, who wrote a book called, Your Healthy Pregnancy with Thyroid Disease, says in the “Thyroid Secret”, that her well credited top NYC doctor didn’t pay attention to her TSH level which was close to 10, and she ended up miscarrying her baby. Also, the co-auther of the book, Mary Shomon says that she has consulted more than two thousands women and many of them said that “I have every piece of blood work they did in front of me and they never check anything related to my thyroid, ever.” She added that so many women spent a lot of money on fertility treatments which have a lot of impact on your body, egg retrievals, in vitro or intrauterine insemination treatments month after month after month, experiencing all the ups and downs and stress and unhappiness of this process. Yet, many of the clinics do not provide comprehensive thyroid tests.
After giving birth, many new moms experience postpartum depression and are told that all the symptoms they are suffering are common symptoms after birth. This would be true since the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop back to normal from higher levels during pregnancy within hours of giving birth. However, the thyroid hormone might be out of balance too.
One of the speakers who was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, entered a hyperthyroid state after giving birth and experienced symptoms such as severe anxiety, heart palpitations, hand tremors, a lot of weight loss, joint pain. She spent 2 years trying to find out what was going on in her body seeing 100 different health professionals. The doctors tested TSH and other thyroid hormone tests, but the test results were normal. Those doctors didn’t test the deeper markers that are more indicative of Hashimoto’s and consulted her that these symptoms are psychosomatic and they’re more a creation of her anxiety.
Debbie Steinbock, a holistic health counselor, shares her experience with Hashimoto thyroiditis in the series. After giving birth to her daughter, her first few weeks of motherhood were a whirlwind, and she knew something felt different. Her TSH number from 3 weeks postpartum checkup was normal at 1.12. However, the following 3-months, her hair started falling out by the handfuls, her energy was depleted, and she was having difficulty sleeping at night despite being exhausted.
In this video series. Dr. Elena Koles, an integrative physician says, “a statistic says that a expecting mom who has Hashimoto’s actually has an 80% risk of their child being autistic.” It is a shocking statement.
Dr. Erica Peirson, who treats special need children, explains in detail, “the mother’s thyroid hormone all throughout pregnancy is certainly important for the development of that child, particularly brain development…. the maternal thyroid function sets the tone for the thyroid function of the child once it’s born.” One of her patients gave birth to a son who had TSH of 33, and later the boy developed autism. Her other son had TSH of 35 at the birth, but he was treated with Thyroid hormone right away, so he didn’t develop autism.
Dr. Peiron describes the signs of a child who may have thyroid issues. low muscle tone (floppy child), protruding tongue, feeding issues like frequent choking, sleeping through the night, prolonged jaundice, umbilical hernia.
When Dr. Izabella Wentz, the host of this documentary asked Dr. Peiron about down syndrome and thyroid disorder, Dr. Peiron said “In my experience and in my opinion, the research isn’t there yet. Every child with Down syndrome experiences hypothyroidism, all of them, not just increased risk, not just some of them”. Then, she added “You can almost narrow it down to every single symptom of Down syndrome right down to the enlarged protruding tongue, delayed growth, delayed cognition, cognitive deficiency, dry skin, their bloated abdomen, their constipation, their low muscle tone, their shorter fingers are all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.”
Dr. Izabella Wentz, added that A 2015 study in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry stated “The odds of autism were increased by nearly 80% among offspring of mothers who were thyroid antibody positive during pregnancy.”
Now you understand how important your thyroid health is not only for your own health but also your future family members.
If you are considering having a baby, the first thing you may need to do is to have a comprehensive thyroid test which includes TSH, Total T4, Total T3, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3 (rT3), TPO and Anti-TG Antibodies (Hashimoto’s Screen). Then, if you find that you have a thyroid disorder, you need to treat it first. Depending on the condition, you may need some type of medication, but you can also start changing lifesyles and diet to reduce inflammation. Dr. Jolene Brighten, a Naturopath doctor who experienced Hashimoto Thyroiditis recommends that you should supplement Vitamin D if the number is low, and selenium at 200 micrograms if you have anti-TPO antibodies preconception or in that first trimester. Also, make sure that you take EPA and DHA. DHA is feeding baby’s brain and EPA reduces inflammation.
Dr. Elena Koles also says that you need to reduce the toxins in your body by changing personal care products and cleaning products. You may need to eliminate and/or reduce exposure to mold, plastics, aluminum. Make sure you don’t have dental fillings with amalgam. She also added, “If she has any kind of gut problem, symbiosis, I don’t know some kind of colitis, anything indigestion, heartburns that should be tested for the trigger and that should be treated because all these together and separately will promote problem in the kid and of course his or her body tries to fight. A little baby doesn’t have capacity, it doesn’t have immunity, it doesn’t have digestive enzymes, it doesn’t have good microflora in the gut, so how he or she could fight with all this stuff that we put inside of him or her? Of course, that’s very difficult. Our days, in our environment, parents should be prepared for pregnancy and having kids. This is why it’s important for women to not just optimize their thyroid hormones, but to also get to the root cause of their thyroid conditions and to address the autoimmune component of their condition…”
For postpartum, Christa Orecchio, Holistic Health Counselor, who wrote “The Whole Journey Food as Medicine Cookbook”, recommends placenta encapsulation, especially above age 35. It helps with postpartum recovery, balance of your hormones, and postpartum depression. Dana Trentini suggests that not only Vitamin D, but also magnesium, b12, and zinc are also important. She was losing hair and found out her ferritin was low. Dana Trentini advises that ferritin should be around 80. If you’re getting postpartum and you’re getting severe hair loss, please go find out your ferritin levels.
Dr. Izabella Wentz well addressed our inner wisdom, saying “the truth is you have a wisdom as your body is communicating to you what’s hurting you and what you need. Trusting those instincts are some of the most valuable steps in finding your true path to healing. Going through when you’re pregnant, make sure you’re tuned into your body and listen to yourself, so don’t want somebody tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you when you feel it deep within your body that there is something wrong because your body will give you messages.” If you are struggling symptoms that your doctor can’t quiet figure out, you may search Naturopath and/or functional medicine doctors who can search root cause of your symptoms. You can of course reach me out for support of dietary and lifestyle changes.