Actress and author Jenny Mollen has earned a solid following on Instagram by being honest about her life and the struggles of motherhood. Now, just six months after welcoming her second child, Mollen has revealed she’s struggling with a thyroid disorder.
“Not anorexia, it’s a thyroid issue,” she captioned a nαked photo of herself, looking thin. “I don’t know what it says about me that I got this thin and didn’t think there was anything wrong. Last Friday, I had a bulge in my neck that finally got me to the doctor. I’m STILL waiting on blood work but my doc thinks it’s Graves.”
Mollen then issued this warning to her followers: “If you just had a baby and have lost an inordinate amount of weight, feel like you are on cocaine, are suddenly heat intolerant, can’t stop losing hair, and think your husband is being a dick it might just be your thyroid!! Get checked ASAP.”
The “Graves” that Mollen referred to is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the overproduction of thyroid hormones (i.e., hyperthyroidism), according to the Mayo Clinic. Graves’ disease can affect anyone, but it’s more common in women and those who are under the age of 40, the clinic says.
Symptoms of the condition include anxiety and irritability, heat sensitivity, weight loss despite normal eating habits, an enlarged thyroid gland, change in menstrual cycles, reduced libido, frequent bowel movements, fatigue, and an irregular heartbeat.
Unfortunately, pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of developing Graves’ disease. “Pregnancy can have a significant impact on the thyroid gland and thyroid function due to physiological and hormonal changes that may alter the way the gland functions,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. And, in some women, it can trigger Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. (Other risk factors for the disease include a family history of the condition, stress, having another autoimmune disorder, and smoking, Wider says.)
That said, you shouldn’t stress about Graves’ disease if you’re pregnant or recently had a baby, as most women don’t experience this during those times, Susan Besser, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “With any pregnancy, the increased hormone associated with pregnancy (human chorionic gonadotropin) stimulates the thyroid gland and causes an increase in its function,” she says. “Usually, this problem resolves itself during the late phase of pregnancy.”
Still, about 5 to 10 percent of women will have some kind of thyroid issue after they have a baby, Melanie Goldfarb, MD, an endocrine surgeon and director of the Endocrine Tumor Program at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Luckily, these postpartum thyroid issues tend to go away with treatment. “That’s why it’s important to get it taken care of,” Goldfarb says. Just know this: If you had a thyroid issue during or after your last pregnancy, you’re at an increased risk of having it again during your next pregnancy, Goldfarb says.
If your doctor suspects you have Graves’ disease or a thyroid disorder, she’ll usually do a physical exam, order blood tests, and have you undergo an ultrasound to help make a diagnosis, the Mayo Clinic says.
So if you notice you have rapid weight loss, high anxiety, fatigue, and an enlarged thyroid gland after having a baby, talk to your doctor — just like Mollen did.
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