Low energy, constant fatigue, weight gain, depression, muscle weakness. Permanent hypothyroidism comes with a host of symptoms, many of which make it difficult to be the rockstar parent you want to be.
My permanent hypothyroidism was caused by a total thyroidectomy that stemmed from an autoimmune disease. During my first pregnancy, they found me to be extremely hyperthyroid. My body was producing so much thyroid hormone that I was on the verge of cardiac arrest.
I was ultimately diagnosed with Graves' disease, which is an autoimmune disease often caused by family history. The condition did not improve throughout my pregnancy even with treatment and constant monitoring by my endocrinologist and other health professionals.
After I had my daughter, they decided it would be best to remove my thyroid. A total thyroidectomy via surgery would hopefully make any future pregnancy much safer and would allow me to be around my infant whereas radiation or iodine treatment would not.
At four months postpartum, I had the surgery and it was successful. However, now I was without a thyroid. This is the epitome of hypothyroid as I had no thyroid hormone coursing through my body at all. For the rest of my life, I will have to take thyroid hormone replacement medication.
Finding the correct dose and most suitable medication was an ordeal and often monitoring my levels and adjusting the quantity still is a constant uphill battle. This was not the way I envisioned my first foray into parenthood going.
The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
● Weight gain
● Cold intolerance
● Dry skin
● Brittle hair and nails
● Muscle weakness
● Slow heart rate
● Impaired memory
When hypothyroidism symptoms flair, you want to stay in bed and rest the day away; you feel guilty that you're too tired to spend time with your kids or partner; you wish you had the time to tidy toys or the energy to sweep and vacuum; you lose your patience because you can't think straight.
None of these things are desirable when raising children.
A key indicator that my dosage is not correct, for me personally, is feeling exhausted. It’s common for any mother to feel exhausted when their kid is sick, after a trying day, or just one too many sleepless nights. But this is not the exhaustion I speak about. What I experience is lingering, unbearable tiredness.
What is difficult about hypothyroidism is that it doesn’t always present with physical symptoms. It is somewhat of an invisible disorder. When you appear outwardly fine, it can be difficult for others to understand that you are suffering and struggling.
Thankfully, my family and I knew what to expect.
After the surgery, the doctors informed us about the possible side effects of hypothyroidism and the never-ending struggle of monitoring and adjusting doses. But for those with undiagnosed hypothyroidism, the reason behind your symptoms can be baffling.
When I feel completely lethargic to the point where getting off of the couch seems dang near impossible, I suspect my thyroid hormones. Now as a mom of two, extended downtime is not possible. I strive to manage my symptoms with the help of my doctor in order to be the best mom I can be.
What You Can Do as a Parent with Hypothyroidism
Stay on top of your medication.
It is so important to take your medication exactly as instructed. For me, this means taking my medication at the same time each day, in the morning, on an empty stomach. After taking my medication, I wait an hour before I can eat (not an easy feat!), I also have to wait an hour before taking any supplements or vitamins as they can interfere with absorption.
If my symptoms begin to creep in or change, I always contact my doctor. It’s helpful to have this kind of partnership. I have changed medications twice now, as some do not work as well as others and some have fillers that can cause allergic reactions. They have adjusted my dosage numerous times. I get bloodwork done every six months or whenever I or my doctor suspects an issue. From these labs, my endocrinologist can tailor my thyroid replacement medication dose.
Try to eat well and stay physically active.
Even though the thought of exercise may seem daunting, taking part in physical activity can release endorphins and boost energy levels. Some foods may interfere with your medication being absorbed; others such as highly processed and sugary foods may make you feel even lousier. Going for a walk or run, lifting weights, and paying attention to my nutrition all seem to combat my underactive thyroid symptoms.
Lean on your partner, if you are able.
Some days, I just need some help. My husband does his best to give me a break when I need it. He also educates himself on my condition or when I present with an odd new symptom, and he’ll occasionally attends appointments so we both have the information. Having a supportive partner means you don’t have to go it alone.
Join an online or in-person support group.
Try as he may, sometimes my husband just doesn’t understand how I am feeling. Joining an online thyroid support group and community has helped me to connect with others who are similarly experiencing parenthood while suffering from hypothyroidism. It's comforting to share stories, successes, and tips with others.
Raising children while having hypothyroidism is not impossible, though some days are better than others. I work hard to be diligent about my medication, physical fitness, and nutrition; these things along with monitoring performed by my doctor help to keep my symptoms under control.