Lessons from the Thyroid (part I).

I apologize for the small hiatus I took: we got sick the first week and my parents came to town the second week for an early Thanksgiving celebration. I had all kinds of grand ideas about writing while they were here, but it turns out those ideas weren’t exactly realistic.

At any rate, I’ve been wanting to write about my thyroid journey for a little while now, so I thought today would be a good day for that.

When the wee one was about 9 months old I went to a doctor for a standard physical. Just to make sure I was doing alright after having a baby. I guess I knew something was off, I just wasn’t sure what that something was, or where to start looking. I didn’t have any of the usual thyroid symptoms like weight gain or sensitivity to cold. Sure, I was somewhat of an emotional wreck and I felt like I was going to die if I didn’t take a nap every day, but I thought that was a normal part of being a new mom. I’m sure it is to some extent, but I had it pretty bad.

So the doctor ran a standard lab panel, which I guess includes TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) now, because we didn’t discuss needing a TSH at the visit. When I got the results in the mail about a week later my TSH had been highlighted -it was over 10, which is the standard medicating point- and there was a prescription for levothyroxine included. There was also a small note from the doctor that basically said I was hypothyroid and needed to start medication. No call, just two sentences written on a piece of paper.

Of course I overreacted a bit, but I also knew that I didn’t want to have anything to do with the medication I had been prescribed. I was off and on hormonal birth control for a few years prior to meeting my husband and I had decided when I stopped that, if I could help it, I wouldn’t take any more prescription medications, particularly involving hormones. I also knew that TSH alone isn’t necessarily a good indicator of what exactly is wrong with your thyroid although it is a great indicator that something is wrong.

I went back in. I don’t remember why, but the doctor (of course) asked how the prescription she had written was going. She was a bit taken aback when I told her that I had decided to try and treat with diet. It was obvious what she thought of my idea, but she told me to come back in 3 months. I ended up returning in a month or so (again, I don’t remember why) and seeing the nurse practitioner who found out I was trying to lower my TSH with diet and was flabbergasted. She immediately wanted to order another TSH to which I had her add free T3 and T4, and thyroid antibodies just for fun. I left after a lecture about how no one had ever (ever, I say!) lowered their TSH with diet, and awaited my results.

I got a call from the nurse practitioner a few days later saying that my TSH was, in fact, 4 points lower and that I should come in for a follow up test in 3 months. The rest of the results were normal, so I knew I didn’t have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I returned for the follow up test (which showed a normal TSH) and I haven’t been back to that doctor since.

I made a lot of changes, and I’ve learned a lot about my body in the time since those doctor’s appointments. It has been a long journey, but I’m very glad I started down the road I did rather than just taking the prescription down to the grocery store and filling it.

The first thing I did when I chose a midwife was to order a thyroid panel to make sure I was okay for pregnancy. We ordered a total of 2, the 1st of which was borderline low, so I started back on a thyroid support supplement and the 2nd was normal so we haven’t tested since the second trimester. I hadn’t been feeling like I felt before I made all of the changes, but it’s always good to check.

Now, I know if I’ve done something that my thyroid dislikes because I’ve learned how to pay attention to my body.

The biggest, most important lesson I’ve learned from my thyroid is to pay attention to yourself. The way you feel, your intuition. This also applies to taking care of yourself. Especially moms, because we tend to forget ourselves in the middle of the chaos that is every day with small children.