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I’d Never Heard Of Postpartum Thyroiditis—Until It Changed My Life

I’d Never Heard Of Postpartum Thyroiditis—Until It Changed My Life

6 min read

A version of this article was originally published on elle.com.

Carly Leahy, Modern Fertility's co-founder and chief creative officer, felt fine after giving birth to her first child. But when she started feeling off a couple months into motherhood, she suspected postpartum depression. She took the Modern Fertility Hormone Test and learned her TSH level was off the charts. Having this info gave her a leg up in getting a diagnosis (and treatment) for Hashimoto's disease. Here, she shares what she learned about thyroid conditions, and why this testing should be more accessible for all people with ovaries.

“You’re so hormonal after you have a kid."

I’d heard it throughout my pregnancy. So when I (finally) gave birth at thirty-seven weeks, I knew it was only the beginning. But for the first little while postpartum, things seemed fine. Sure, I wasn’t getting any sleep and felt like a drippy on-demand cow a lot of the time, but I didn’t have any major complications. I thought I had pretty much dodged whatever postpartum bullet was supposed to be headed my way.

Something was very wrong. My brain told me that it must be postpartum depression — right?

At month four, I stopped sleeping. Not an unusual situation for some new parents, but at this point my baby was rocking a 7-to-7 sleep schedule. It was just me who was having the 3 a.m. heart palpitations. I was flighty and anxious all day at work, lost a weird amount of weight for a postpartum mom, and the glamorous kicker? My hair started falling out (we’re talking chunks of hair). I felt like a husk of a person.

Something was very wrong. My brain told me that it must be postpartum depression — right?

At our pediatrician appointment that month (the US doesn’t have any ongoing care for postpartum parents, which is a story for another day) they handed me a clipboard with a postpartum depression survey. I’d gone through the motions at previous checkups — circling  “no”, “no”, “no” to the questions about feeling sad. But this time I said, “you know what? I feel like shit.” I circled “yes” to a few and asked for a referral to a postpartum therapist in my neighborhood.

I didn’t think I could — or should — wait to feel better, so I decided to take our hormone test.

It took some time to find the right fit (again, story for another day) and I didn’t think I could — or should — wait to feel better, so I decided to take our hormone test. I co-founded Modern Fertility in 2017, and we are all about checking in on fertility hormones before you have a kid. I’d tested my own hormones many times already, but I couldn’t ignore the similarities between what I was feeling and what many of our users had described when suffering from hormone imbalances — particularly thyroid issues.

I popped the Modern Fertility hormone test in the mail, and a few days later I got an alert that my results were ready. About an hour later, our head of clinical responded to my text, “You’re going to see a doctor, right?” My thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) was off the charts. Like way off the charts. I remember feeling equal parts fear for myself and my body and vindication, because it confirmed what I already knew: something was very wrong.

Your thyroid regulates a whole list of systems in your body, and when it’s out of whack, it can cause fatigue, weight fluctuation, thinning hair, and depression.

When your TSH is very high, it can be a sign that your thyroid isn’t properly producing thyroid hormones. Your body is essentially flooring it on the gas to try and stimulate the thyroid into doing its job. Your thyroid regulates a whole list of systems in your body, and when it’s out of whack, it can cause fatigue, weight fluctuation, thinning hair, constipation, high cholesterol, muscle weakness, depression, decreased cognitive function, etc. etc. (check, check, check…). You get the picture.

These were all things I’d known from developing Modern Fertility with our clinical team, but I had never had a thyroid issue myself — at least not that I knew about. Could my hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) have been spurred on by my pregnancy?

I had my Modern Fertility test results in-hand, and having that extra information made me feel ten steps ahead already.

I made an appointment with my general practitioner for the next day. I had my Modern Fertility test results in-hand, and having that extra information made me feel ten steps ahead already. My doctor took one look at that high TSH and immediately ordered more tests to rule out other issues and test for additional hormones.

Two days later, the results were in: I had a confirmed elevated TSH, positive TPOs (which are basically antibodies that signal your body is attacking your thyroid), and super low T4 (confirming I wasn’t operating with enough thyroid hormone in my body). My doctor told me that it looks like Hashimoto’s disease — a scary sounding name for autoimmune hypothyroidism. My body was attacking my thyroid, preventing it from doing its job.

The good news: Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s are extremely treatable. Almost dream-state, best-case-scenario treatable. My doctor prescribed Levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone that can essentially do the job your thyroid is failing to do. Call it a placebo or a victor's mindset, but I felt better very soon after starting on Levothyroxine. And three months later, I felt completely like myself again. It’s taken time to wrap my head around the fact that I have a lifelong chronic disease that I may have to manage forever (it’s weird — I’ve never had a lifelong anything), but having a solution that allows me to live my normal life is worth it.

To be honest with you, it’s been difficult to get answers about why and how this happened in my body. Despite having a whole month devoted to talking about thyroid issues, we as a society are still largely silent about it. Apparently, 1 in 8 women develop postpartum thyroiditis (something about pregnancy inflames the thyroid), which is a hell of a lot of women for something I’d never heard of that had the power to throw me so off kilter. It made me angry.

I feel incredibly lucky that I knew to turn to hormone testing early.

This Thyroid Awareness Month (I guess it’s my first year actually observing), I feel incredibly lucky that I knew to turn to hormone testing early. That kind of empowering information is something everyone should be able to access. Having more data like that in our back pockets can only expand and encourage these conversations that are so important to have, from book club to boardroom.

People with ovaries deserve to be able to advocate for themselves and prioritize their own physical and mental health. Not feeling OK is not OK. “It’s just the way it is” isn’t a good excuse anymore, and suffering through our conditions doesn’t and shouldn’t just “come with the territory” of postpartum. And you better believe I am telling every pregnant person I know to get that thyroid checked before, during, and after pregnancy. Check your thyroid, friends.



Fertility could be top of mind or on the back burner for now — but it has the power to impact everything. We're sharing your stories to both celebrate and create space for the many ways we navigate our careers, relationships, and finances in relation to our reproductive health. If you have a story to share, get in touch.

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Carly Leahy

Carly is a co-founder of Modern Fertility.

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