Thyroid Problems In Pregnancy : You Must Want To Know

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I’m so excited to announce that my husband and I are expecting our very own baby next month! Pregnancy has been a joyful, humbling, scary, overwhelming and empowering experience all at once.

The Joy

I think the joy that comes with having a new baby is easy to understand. My husband and I were over the moon when we found out I was pregnant. 🙂 A little person to love and care for, and so many firsts and opportunities! I can’t help but to smile every time I think about holding my baby.

It still seems surreal when for many years, I’ve sort of given up hope that I would ever become a mom.

Pregnancy was also a dream come true, as I wasn’t sure it would ever be possible after my Hashimoto’s diagnosis. When I first found out I had Hashimoto’s, I came home and cried. One of the things that was most difficult for me to have this diagnosis as a young woman was that I would be at higher risk for fertility problems…

I haven’t shared this publicly before, but around the time of my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, before I had recovered my health, I had markers and symptoms of premature ovarian failure. I had night sweats, irregular menses, mood swings, as well as an elevated FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone: when elevated, this lab can indicate low ovarian reserve, premature ovarian failure or menopause).

Premature ovarian failure (POF) can happen for a variety of reasons, two of which include radiation exposure, and an autoimmune response to ovaries. Premature ovarian failure means a woman goes into menopause earlier than expected and will likely struggle with ovulation and fertility. This was me in 2011.

With my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, all of the fatigue and health challenges I experienced as well as the signs and markers of POF, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant and became used to the idea that a baby may never be in my future.

If you’ve had similar thoughts, or challenges, I want to offer some hope…

Evidence is growing that premature ovarian failure is connected to autoimmune disease. Thyroid disorders are the most common co-occuring conditions with premature ovarian failure, and a deficiency in the hormone DHEA (associated with the adrenals, which are, in my experience, dysfunctional in 90 percent of people with Hashimoto’s) has also been connected.

In addition to making all of the lifestyle changes to address my Hashimoto’s, I also spent about a year taking DHEA, an adrenal hormone supplement (often touted as the youth hormone) that has been clinically shown to reduce thyroid peroxidase antibodies and address premature ovarian failure.

I took the actual DHEA supplement and the 7-Keto version as well. Please note: DHEA and 7-Keto, while available over the counter in some countries, are potent hormones. Women generally benefit from lower doses, anywhere from 1-30 mg per day, and may experience adverse reactions such as skin breakouts. This hormone can turn into estrogen in the body, so it’s not indicated for people with a history of estrogen fueled tumors. I’ve written about this hormone in my two books, Hashimoto’s: The Root Cause and Hashimoto’s Protocol, but due to some of the risks, I recommend working with a practitioner when taking it.

I have been ovulating regularly since 2012 and all of my remaining symptoms of POF vanished over time! I was able to get Hashimoto’s in remission in 2013.

The lifestyle changes you’re making for Hashimoto’s are going to help your body become healthier overall. Fertility (during childbearing years) is a sign of health, and the healthier you are, the easier for you it will be to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy!

After taking back my health, I found my life’s purpose (helping other people with Hashimoto’s take back their health), and published my first book, Hashimoto’s: The Root Cause. My new found purpose kept me quite busy, and my life felt quite full so I put my dreams of motherhood on the backburner…

However, this past summer, on my birthday, I shared a wish with my husband that we would start a family. I then shared this intention with a group of friends and colleagues, and I have to say, there’s something to be said about manifesting and setting intentions… I was pregnant within a month. 🙂

I never even had a chance to retest my FSH and do a “proper” fertility prep – but since everything I’ve been doing for years for Hashimoto’s tends to increase fertility naturally, I went into the pregnancy pretty healthy!

If you’ve struggled with fertility issues, please know that there are answers out there. Getting your TSH under 2 IU/L, reducing your thyroid antibodies under 100 IU/ml, cutting out reactive foods like gluten or dairy, taking LDN, DHEA, and/or optimizing your luteal phase with progesterone and adrenal support, acupuncture and numerous other interventions can help you become a mama, if that’s one of your dreams.

Don’t give up hope! (Also, if you have other health struggles because of your Hashimoto’s, hang in there, and know that I am here to help – that is really my life’s purpose). I’ll share some of my favorite books and resources on fertility and pregnancy at the bottom of this post.

I am so grateful for being healthy enough to become pregnant, and humbled by how much I already love my baby! At the same time, I’ve had quite a few moments of overwhelm, fear and self-doubt through the process…

The Overwhelming and Scary Moments that Helped Me Grow…

We live in a world of so many choices. While I’m well versed in optimizing fertility by ways of addressing Hashimoto’s, I am not an expert in pregnancy, babies or childcare.

Trying to get up to speed on everything while dealing with first trimester fatigue was overwhelming! We have so many choices we can make, and knowing what I know about root causes of illness and toxicity, I didn’t want to blindly follow the “standard advice”. (I learned some interesting things that I’ll share in this article…)

Even setting up my baby registry was overwhelming. I wanted to know not just which products were going to be the most helpful, but also, how safe were the products?

Luckily, I had some great friends to ask, as well as the WellnessMama and MamaNatural blogs to use for guidance. 🙂If you want to see what I ultimately registered for, here is my Amazon Registry Link.

In addition to the usual overwhelm and fears that most pregnant women face, such as “Will I be a good mom?”, “Will my baby be healthy?”, “Which preschool should I choose?”… (I woke up one night at 3am looking up preschools :-))… I ended up having a few scary situations, where I was worried about my little bundle of joy.

In the beginning of my second trimester, I caught a virus while visiting the hospital to have some prenatal tests done. I was bedridden for almost 3 weeks with numerous symptoms. It was either the killer cold (Adenovirus) or the flu. Either way, it wasn’t fun, and I felt helpless, because I couldn’t take my usual antiviral remedies, as many of them weren’t tested during pregnancy and/or can have potential adverse effects in pregnancy. I worried about my little one the entire time. Plus, being sick for three weeks meant that I got behind on numerous projects and my baby book reading!

Towards the end of the second trimester, I had a pretty serious fall. I lost my balance at Home Depot and fell and bruised my behind. Luckily, the baby was well cushioned and exams revealed that only my bottom (and perhaps ego – the fall was very un-fertility goddess-like and very unglamorous) were bruised…

I’ve also had quite a few personal setbacks occur throughout my pregnancy that I was not expecting. At the time that they were happening, I felt very stressed and wondered if it was fair of me to bring a child into the world and if I was truly ready for the challenge of being the main person responsible for caring for a little one.

I’ve been able to overcome the setbacks, shed my past self, let go of childish beliefs, and no longer accept things that don’t work for me. In a way, these challenges have become opportunities for growth, as well as for becoming stronger and more empowered.

I’ve become much more grounded through the process and more committed to getting my needs met.

While patience and compassion have always been a core part of my personality that I loved, they sometimes got me in trouble, because I would put others’ feelings before my own needs. Throughout the pregnancy, my belief in myself has greatly increased, while my tolerance for people who do not treat me well has greatly diminished!

Speaking of growth… The pregnancy has given me an even deeper appreciation for my body! It has been so amazing to watch my body change and grow to create a little human.

Some days I feel like a fertility goddess with my rosy cheeks and full belly, other days like humpty-dumpty with my swollen feet and slight waddle!

Here are some photos of my journey. 🙂

The Photos

Just starting to show at 12 weeks!

Our official pregnancy announcement photo!

Babymoon in California during 2nd trimester

Sideview!

Chillin’ in Colorado at 28 weeks!

Celebrating Women’s Day with my Mom at week 34

Staying Healthy in Pregnancy

Up to 35 percent of women with Hashimoto’s say that they feel better pregnant, compared to not pregnant. While I’m enjoying the wonders of pregnancy and growing a little human, I’m definitely not a part of that 35 percent. 🙂

I am so grateful to be healthy enough to become pregnant, and I’ve had a pretty healthy pregnancy so far, but I still feel pregnant and have had many of the “typical” pregnancy symptoms.

While I am taking a break from my usual extreme guinea-pigging ways, I have been able to figure out how to address some of them with my root cause ways…

I’m discovering and learning new things everyday, and I’d like to share some of my research, as well as a few of my personal observations with you, with the hope that they may help you or someone you know.

Here are my top 8 observations (so far)… some of them I #learnedthehardway:

1. Increasing your thyroid medications – It’s been well documented that women who become pregnant will need to increase their dose of thyroid medications by about 30 percent as soon as they become pregnant. This is the first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant. 🙂 Be sure to work with your doctor. Getting on the right dose of medicine can prevent not just thyroid symptoms but even miscarriage! Read more about lab tests for pregnancy in this post.

2. Your immune system is not as vigilant to infections when you are pregnant, so you are more likely to pick up any germs that are going around. In one sense, this is a good thing – if the immune system was overactive, it would recognize the baby as a foreign invader. (As a side note, this does happen for some women with autoimmune disease and can lead to miscarriage – LDN and other immune modulation strategies such as Wobenzym may help). On the other hand, this could be a bad thing, as infections can be risky to you and the growing baby. I mentioned that I became really sick towards the beginning of my 2nd trimester. I picked up the bug while visiting my local hospital lab for prenatal testing! The lab waiting room is attached to an emergency waiting room where little sick kids were coughing and sneezing while I was waiting to get my blood drawn. Since that time, I’ve elected to get my labs drawn elsewhere. Look for options like your physician’s office, a mobile phlebotomist or a small standalone lab. Additionally, you may want to use a face mask when you are in public places with a lot of germs like hospitals and schools.

3. B6 (or P5P) for Morning Sickness – In researching which of my supplements were safe and helpful for pregnancy, I came across information about B6 (or the active P5P version from Pure Encapsulations I take) as a preventative for morning sickness. I had already been taking the supplement, so I continued it. Ironically, I did forget to take my supplements the day I was due to give a presentation to hundreds of healthcare professionals for Pure Encapsulations at the Institute of Functional Medicine in Dallas this past fall, and boy was that a mistake – I had to excuse myself to run to the bathroom with morning sickness mid sentence! I barely made it to the stall!! I was still early in my first trimester and wasn’t showing or announcing the pregnancy yet, but a couple of perceptive doctors caught on that I was pregnant. (One of them actually asked if I was pregnant during the Q&A session after my presentation!)

I’ve had a couple of other instances of morning sickness, either on days when I forgot to take my P5P supplement, or on days when I had to give a talk or an interview. Let’s just say… I take the P5P every day now and I put my speaking engagements on hold for a little bit in favor of nesting! My hubby and I joked that #BossBaby (as we have been calling our little one) has already made demands for me to change my schedule. The dose used in studies is 50 mg-500 mg (6), and I personally take 50 mg per day.

4. Food Sensitivities can cause acid reflux in pregnancy! Acid reflux was one of my major symptoms that bothered me for almost 3 years, then it went away when I removed reactive foods. I haven’t had an incident of acid reflux since then, until the end of my first trimester. Before I was pregnant, I had introduced most foods back in to my diet, with the exception of gluten and dairy (as well as nuts, which caused me to have chin breakouts), and had no symptoms. But somewhere along the pregnancy, I started to have almost daily acid reflux! I tried some gentle remedies like ginger, magnesium and drinking more bone broth – to no avail. I asked around quite a bit, and many experts told me that acid reflux just came with the territory! On a hunch, I decided to repeat food sensitivity testing, which revealed that I had a few new food sensitivities! One of them was ginger, a common anti-reflux remedy recommended for pregnant women. I cut out the ginger as well as the other foods that came up positive on the test, and guess what? No more reflux 🙂 (with the exception of the times I accidentally ate the reactive foods). You can read more about the food sensitivity test I use in the article on Food Sensitivities.

5. Magnesium is truly a miracle in pregnancy! It has helped me with getting better sleep, reducing leg cramps and constipation. I use the magnesium citrate version.

6. Perioral dermatitis without antibiotics – Perioral dermatitis is a facial rash that seems to be connected to hormonal changes and one that many pregnant women get. I had this rash many years ago when I was taking birth control pills, and had used multiple rounds of antibiotics to clear it. I had another flare up of perioral dermatitis during the pregnancy and was able to clear it by using Calendula-Comfrey Salve and by addressing iron deficiency. Some of my colleagues also recommend looking into non-SLS toothpaste (Carol Messere), B2 deficiency and fungal cheilitis (Shawn Tassone), Zinc deficiency (Carolyn Messere), topical Vitamin E, fluoride-free toothpaste and water, and food sensitivity elimination (Shannon Morgenstern), to address perioral dermatitis.

7. Iron deficiency can cause many “pregnancy” symptoms like brain fog, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue and restless leg syndrome. Often times, these symptoms are dismissed as normal pregnancy symptoms. When I first became pregnant, I checked my ferritin levels and found they were deficient, so I decided to get iron infusions right away to address the low levels quickly. While I still had the 1st trimester fatigue (thanks to a big surge of progesterone which helped to prepare the nest for my baby and made me so relaxed, but so sleepy), my mood was really happy and mellow.

However, towards the middle of the second trimester, I started becoming emotional and having serious burger cravings! My husband and I dubbed this my “burger deficiency” and I had to eat 2 burgers a day to stay calm and happy. There may have been a time or two where he had to go out in rush hour traffic to get me burgers so I would stop sobbing… While the burgers were grass-fed, gluten-free and delicious, they weren’t enough for the high iron demand the pregnancy caused, and neither were the supplements I was taking.

As time went on, I started to feel worse emotionally, eventually having crying spells, anxiety attacks, overwhelm, insomnia, significant fatigue and even restless leg syndrome that no amount of burgers could resolve. I self-ordered my ferritin and iron labs earlier than recommended by my doctors, and found that I was deficient in iron once more! I began to feel more like myself with each iron IV, and rather quickly, my emotions stabilized, and the anxiety, overwhelm and insomnia went away. The restless leg was gone after the first IV. The fatigue improved, though I am still not as energetic as while I’m not pregnant, so the fatigue either comes with the territory indeed, or I just haven’t figured out what to do about it! But, I’m grateful to be free of the other symptoms and I am getting my sleep!

Pregnancy and childbirth are both known to deplete iron levels. In people with a history of iron deficiency, this could be more significant… I will be exploring the mechanisms of why I became somewhat deficient after the baby is born and when I’m back to my guinea-pigging ways. For now, I will continue to receive iron IV’s and test my nutrient levels throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

The moral here: you may become deficient in iron/ferritin as soon as you get pregnant, and earlier than the average woman, especially if you have a history of low ferritin. You may not absorb iron properly from food, no matter how many burgers you eat and you may not even absorb enough of it from supplements. Iron IV’s are an important option you should know about!

8. Leg cramps – I haven’t found a magic bullet solution for this, but getting my iron levels up, taking magnesium supplements, epsom salt baths, and Arnica cream, as well as using compression stockings, keeping hydrated, doing prenatal yoga and drinking green juices seem to help.

These are just some of my observations. I hope that they help you or someone you know. 😉 I’d also love YOUR advice! Many of my readers are moms and healthcare professionals who work with moms and babies. What are some observations and tips you can share with me about…

  • Optimizing fertility?
  • Having a healthy pregnancy?
  • Overcoming pregnancy symptoms?
  • Giving birth?
  • Taking care of a little one?
  • The postpartum period?
  • Breastfeeding?
  • Healing yourself while you have a little one?

Please submit your feedback HERE to let me know! I will be reviewing and sharing it on Mother’s Day. 🙂

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few books and resources I’ve found helpful:

  1. How to Conceive Naturally: And Have a Healthy Pregnancy after 30 (By Christa Orecchio, who just had a beautiful baby at age 38)
  2. Your Healthy Pregnancy with Thyroid Disease: A Guide to Fertility, Pregnancy, and Postpartum Wellness
  3. The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth
  4. The Better Baby Book: How to Have a Healthier, Smarter, Happier Baby
  5. Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth: The New Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Fourth Trimester
  6. The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality
  7. The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother
  8. Brighton Baby a Revolutionary Organic Approach to Having an Extraordinary Child
  9. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
  10. Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)

If you’re thinking about having little ones, I hope this information has helped. If you’re not in the market for a new baby, I have been in creative mode and will be releasing new articles and resources to help you on your Hashimoto’s journey over the next few weeks.

I am wrapping up my new creative projects and getting ready for the baby’s arrival and my maternity leave. If you’d like to see pictures of my little one, I’ll be posting them on Instagram!

P.S. Before I head out for maternity leave, I created one more thing for you so that you can take back your health and follow your dreams, no matter what they may be! The Root Cause Reset is designed to give you a kickstart in your healing and fit into your busy lifestyle! Learn more about it HERE.

References

  1. Ayesha, Jha V, Goswami D. Premature Ovarian Failure: An Association with Autoimmune Diseases. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(10):QC10-QC12.
  2. Ott J, Pecnik P, Promberger R, Pils S, Seemann R, Hermann M, et al. Dehydroepiandrosterone in women with premature ovarian failure and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Climacteric. 2014;17(1):92-6. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2013.800040
  3. Mamas L, Mamas E. Premature ovarian failure and dehydroepiandrosterone. Fertil Steril. 2009;91(2):644-6. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.11.055.
  4. Barad D, Brill H, Gleicher N. Update on the use of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation among women with diminished ovarian function. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2007;24(12):629-34.
  5. Fusi FM, Ferrario M, Bosisio C, Arnoldi M, Zanga L. DHEA supplementation positively affects spontaneous pregnancies in women with diminished ovarian function. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2013;29(10):940-3. doi: 10.3109/09513590.2013.819087.
  6. Shrim A, Boskovic R, Maltepe C, Navios Y, Garcia-Bournissen F, Koren G. Pregnancy outcome following use of large doses of vitamin B6 in the first trimester. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2006;26(8):749-51.
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