Of course you're tired; you're a mom! Sure you've gained a little weight -- or maybe you've lost some; ever since the baby, your eating schedules have been crazy. And your periods have been a little irregular, what with the hormonal roller coaster you've been on. What else could it be?
Quite possibly, a problem with your thyroid, a small hormone-producing gland in your neck that helps regulate metabolism.
"It's easy to overlook fatigue and weight fluctuations, since these are so common in moms of young children," says Christine Laine, M.D., senior deputy editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine. But, she says, thyroid problems are not only more common in women than men, they typically surface in the 20s to 40s. They're often discovered after a pregnancy, though it's unclear whether that's a trigger.
Your doctor can diagnose a thyroid problem with a blood test that measures levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). But first you may need to recognize the symptoms. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause irregular or very light periods, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and/or constipation. It's easily treated with prescription medication -- thyroid-hormone pills.
An overactive thyroid (hyper-thyroidism) may announce itself with diarrhea, anxiety, and/or heavy, irregular periods. Your doctor may suggest surgery, medication to reduce levels of thyroid hormone, or radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid -- usually followed by pills to replace an appropriate amount of thyroid hormone.
Sometimes, no treatment is necessary. About 1 in 10 women will have thyroid problems after pregnancy, says Dr. Laine. In most cases, they last up to a few months after delivery, and then the thyroid begins to function normally again on its own. So careful monitoring by your doctor is all that's needed.