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Mostly undetected: thyroid inflammation after birth


Almost every twelfth mother develops inflammation of the thyroid after delivery. The reason is the hormonal stress situation to which the maternal thyroid gland is exposed during pregnancy. The inflammation is often misunderstood.

The disease manifests itself as tiredness, insomnia, irritability, nervousness and depressed mood. Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Schmidt from the Professional Association of German Nuclear Medicine e. V (BDN) explains: "This is often quickly dismissed and misinterpreted as baby blues". Postpartum thyroiditis develops about four to 24 weeks after childbirth. "The disease does not cause pain, which is why it is also called 'silent' thyroid inflammation," explains BDN expert Schmidt. Women who have been diagnosed with elevated thyroid antibodies - so-called TPO antibodies - before or during pregnancy, women with a tendency to Hashimoto's or Graves' disease and diabetes patients are particularly at risk.

Although “postpartum thyroid inflammation” is a relatively common phenomenon, it is not seldom misunderstood. "This is because postpartum depression often expresses itself in a very similar way or the women are subject to the premature judgment that they cannot cope with the new stressful situation," says Schmidt. A blood test shows whether there is thyroid inflammation after childbirth.

Almost every twelfth mother develops inflammation of the thyroid a few weeks after the delivery. The reason for postpartum thyroiditis, as the technical term is, is the hormonal stress situation to which the maternal thyroid gland is exposed during pregnancy. The disease manifests itself as tiredness, insomnia, irritability, nervousness and depressed mood. "This is often quickly dismissed and misinterpreted as baby blues," explains Professor Dr. V (BDN). A blood test clarifies whether there is thyroid inflammation after birth.

Postpartum thyroiditis develops about four to 24 weeks after childbirth. "The disease does not cause pain, which is why it is also called 'silent' thyroid inflammation," explains BDN expert Schmidt, senior physician at the clinic and polyclinic for nuclear medicine at the Cologne University Hospital. Women who have been diagnosed with elevated thyroid antibodies - so-called TPO antibodies - before or during pregnancy, women with a tendency to Hashimoto's or Graves' disease and diabetes patients are particularly at risk. "They can experience hormonal derailment after pregnancy, which is a kind of stress test for the maternal thyroid gland," explains the nuclear medicine doctor.

The disease often proceeds in different phases. This leads to hyperthyroidism with tremors, nervousness, accelerated heartbeat and increased sweating. "In the case of severe symptoms, taking beta blockers temporarily helps, a few weeks are usually sufficient," says Schmidt. This is often followed by a phase of hypothyroidism - during this time the young mothers suffer primarily from fatigue and lack of drive. "But it can also only be either an over- or under-function," says Schmidt. Half of the women normalize themselves after a year. "If the hypofunction continues, levothyroxine is a tried-and-tested medication in tablet form for the treatment of hypothyroidism," says Schmidt.

Although “postpartum thyroid inflammation” is a relatively common phenomenon, it is not seldom misunderstood. For this reason, the BDN expert advises affected women to also consider postpartum thyroiditis in the case of such complaints. "The best thing to do is to speak to the treating gynecologist, family doctor or midwife," says Schmidt. "A blood test shows whether there is thyroid inflammation after childbirth." (PM)

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