Thyroid Awareness Month {What You Need to Know}

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As anyone who has been pregnant will tell you, your pregnancy can and will bring with it many desirable outcomes (obviously) as well as some nasty side effects we would soon like to forget. For example, during my first pregnancy with my now 12-year-old, I worked in a building that also housed a Subway restaurant. Before I was pregnant, the smell of bread baking daily was always a delicious scent. But during my first trimester, walking by that smell wafting my way was completely unwelcome and overbearing. Every single morning, I became sick from the smell of freshly baked bread. Even to this day, I can only stand that smell for so long before I start getting queasy again!

While my son was a very desirable outcome of this pregnancy, my rainbow baby after suffering a miscarriage with twin girls, an unwelcome after-effect of my pregnancy was finding out I have Hypothyroidism. This is a lifetime diagnosis and can’t be “cured,” only treated and managed.

thyroid

This came to a shock to me, because, well, I was finally a mom, basking in the newness of this beautiful miracle in my arms. Little did I know that this unknowingly was the beginning of my journey of living with Hypothyroidism – a disorder that was actually brought on BY my pregnancy.

This is something important to know. Pregnancy-induced thyroid dysfunction is fairly common, especially due to these factors:

  • Shifts in immune function during and after pregnancy
  • Shifts in hormone function during and after pregnancy
  • Already existing stressors to the body (blood sugar imbalances, food intolerances, gut infections, other autoimmune diseases, etc.)
  • Genetic tendency

Prior to getting pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Disease, which contributed to my prior miscarriage, and apparently, added to my Hypothyroidism diagnosis. Many of the symptoms overlap, not just with my PCO diagnosis, but also with pregnancy.

Symptoms vary widely and diagnosis can be difficult, so keeping detailed records will be a significant help to your doctor. Some of the most common symptoms include, but are not just limited to the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Increased blood cholesterol level
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
  • Irregular menstrual periods or amenorrhea
  • Dry hair or hair loss

Of course, as a new mom, you are ALWAYS tired. You are always sleepy and fatigued. But mine never went away, even long after the first few months of being a new mom. Paying attention to your thyroid and its functions (or dysfunctions) is vitally important for early detection and treatment. Although women are five times more likely to develop thyroid problems than men, it can happen to anyone. ​It’s estimated that over 30 million Americans have thyroid dysfunction, yet at least half of these cases are undiagnosed and, consequently, untreated.

How to Observe Thyroid Awareness Month

Take the thyroid neck check.

Have a hand-held mirror and a glass of water handy. With the mirror in your hand, focus on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbone, and below the voice box (larynx). This is where your thyroid gland is located. While focusing on this area, tip your head back, take a drink of water, and swallow. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions. (Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland.) If you do see any bulges, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule.

Encourage friends and family to get tested.

If a family member or a friend has mentioned feeling cold a lot of the time, having trouble sleeping, or difficulty swallowing, maybe it’s time to suggest they ask their doctor about thyroid dysfunction. It’s all too easy to dismiss “little” issues like dry skin as being insignificant, but testing could help them find treatment quicker.

Why Thyroid Awareness Month Is Important

It emphasizes the vital purpose of the thyroid.

The thyroid can seem a bit mysterious, but in reality, it’s simply a small endocrine gland at the base of the neck. However, the thyroid produces hormones important to the healthy functioning of major organs, as well as virtually every cell of the body. When it’s producing either too much or too little of these hormones, other body systems can get out of balance, leading to problems ranging from dry skin to decreased vision.

It encourages us to get tested.

Diagnoses can be accomplished with simple blood tests. There are literally hundreds of possible symptoms, but the most common are cold hands and feet, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain. All of these can indicate hypothyroidism (not enough hormone being produced). Conversely, diarrhea and unexplained weight loss can be a sign of hyperthyroidism (too much hormone). If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, this is the perfect time to ask your doctor if you should be tested.

It promotes early treatment.

Even if you have no symptoms, you should know the possible signs of trouble, so that you can seek medical advice sooner rather than later. And if you are diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, getting treatment now means a much greater likelihood of living a healthy life. As soon as I started on the medication and was aware of what was going on with my body, I felt so much better.

As moms, with younger or older children, feeling our best is vital to getting through each and every day. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you owe it to yourself to get tested. It absolutely changed my life!

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I am originally from New Hampshire and moved to the Cincinnati area in 2003. I am a single mom to 2 amazing boys, Eli and Ethan. We are avid Reds fans and you will likely find us at the ballpark quite a bit during baseball season. I have a degree in healthcare management and work full-time in Cincinnati. I have shared parenting of my boys, so when we are together, I try to make sure we make the most of our time! Whether it’s seeing Madcap Puppets, exploring the numerous local parks, enjoying the Cincinnati Pops, or cheering on our Cincinnati Redlegs, I strive to expose my boys to as many aspects of culture that I can! I enjoy music (I’ve played piano for 30 years) as well as being crafty (as time allows!), making crazy cool cakes, and relaxing with my boys, our dog Frankie and cats Lyra & Luna (we have quite the animal kingdom in our house)! I’m really excited about sharing a piece of my world with you and this oftentimes humorous and wild adventure I call my life as a mom!

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