Thyroidless and Pregnant

30 May

photo (7)I’m pregnant.

There, I said it. I don’t know why I am having such a hard time telling people. Maybe I am afraid it’s somehow not true. Or that something terrible is going to happen as soon as I go public. Or maybe it’s just an awkward conversation to have. Whatever it is, I am finally putting it out there. I am 13 weeks pregnant and I don’t have a thyroid.

Everywhere you look, doctors are warning about the dangers of hypothyroidism during pregnancy. I assumed losing my thyroid meant losing my ability to have more children. After I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I was devastated every time I saw a pregnant woman. I even blogged about it. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, because I didn’t think I even wanted another baby. Did I?

Shortly after my diagnosis, I went to my aunt and uncle’s church to pray for success with my upcoming thyroidectomy. The pastor’s message was all about Faith and Grace. He talked about infertility and the gift of his own daughter (aptly named Faith), who was finally born after years of trying. Again, I became overwhelmed with grief. When the service was over and it was time to pray about my surgery, all I could blubber about was the loss of a baby that I didn’t even know I wanted. We all prayed together…heal me from thyroid cancer and give me the chance to be a mother again. Two years later, I have that chance.

My pregnancy is a direct answer to my prayers. It’s one of the most obvious blessings God has ever bestowed on me…like He’s making up for the struggle that thyroid cancer has been for me. My husband and I are happy and grateful. Yet from the day I took my positive pregnancy test, I have had my boxing gloves on.  It’s time to fight again. Look out, doctors, because now I am fighting for two.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I called U of M. The nurse gave me her protocol answer: “Get off Cytomel, increase Synthroid by 20%”

They didn’t even want to check my levels. So I asked for bloodwork. They sent me a slip for TSH and Free T4. “No Free T3?” I asked. “How can you know if I need to get off Cytomel, which is my T3 replacement, if you aren’t even going to look at how much is in my system?” I started having nightmares about my T3 plummeting and leaving me and my baby at risk for complications and unnecessary fatigue. I pushed and pleaded, all which was met with loud sighs and exasperation.

They did finally check all three numbers – TSH, Free T4 and Free T3. All hadn’t budged from my last round of pre-pregnancy  bloodwork. So I asked, why would I just ditch my Cytomel and increase my Synthroid? The nurse – someone who has an R.N. degree and works exclusively for a specialist who manages thyroid cancer patients, said, “Your TSH is too low. You need more Synthroid.”

The exact opposite is true.

To make matters worse, my endocrinologist didn’t even want to talk to me directly or see me in her office. The whole experience gave me anxiety. I took my chances and asked my OB-GYN (whom I’ve known for 9 years, and trust) to manage my thyroid meds during my pregnancy. He agreed – I could stay on my small dose of Cytomel, we would check my levels every 2 weeks until we started to see a decline, and then we would adjust my Synthroid. He didn’t even care about my TSH – he said he would focus on how I felt, and my Free T4 and Free T3. He is a very rare find in the world of medicine, and I am grateful. At about week 8, I started to feel unusually exhausted, I gained 4 pounds in two days, and my hair had a weird texture. Sure enough, my TSH had risen from 0.03 to 1.1, my Free T4 had fallen from 1.3 to 1.0, and my Free T3 had fallen from 3.1 to only 2.3. These numbers are well within normal limits, but I know my own “normal.” And in the first trimester, the baby’s needs for thyroid hormone are critical. I called my OB’s office and asked for a medication change. Since he was on vacation, I had to deal with another doctor in his practice…someone I have also known for several years and is one of the most respected in my local community. His response?

“You’re normal. We aren’t going to increase your medication until you are below normal.”

So, the treatment strategy from one of the most respected OB-GYNs in my city is to wait until his pregnant patients have OVERTLY swung into hypothyroidism, and then risk the 4-6 week time period where the baby’s hormone needs are growing, but the extra medication has not yet become fully bioavailable in the mother’s body?

WOW.

Luckily, my OB returned a few short days later and happily increased my Synthroid from 125 mcg to 137 mcg. I am feeling normal again, and lost the random 4 pounds I had gained. At week 13, I have gained a net 3 pounds, I feel good, and even ran a 5K.

photo (8)

Not breaking any speed records, but still running (and kicking) at 11 weeks!

So maybe I won’t have to fight too hard after all. But I will stay vigilant. There is a movement happening, and thyroid patients are advocating for change. I am happy to be a part of it! In the meantime, it’s up to us to fight for ourselves and for our babies.

I’ll keep you posted. I fully intend to be a success story.

My 13 week bump

My 13-week miracle bump

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4 Responses to “Thyroidless and Pregnant”

  1. Anna June 2, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Congratulations! I’m soooo happy for you! Will be praying for a happy and healthy pregnancy and baby!

  2. Emily bentz December 12, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    I’m so glad I came across your post. I have had to fight with my doctors so that I can at least feel normal again, which meant getting on cytomel. We plan on trying to have a baby in the next couple of months and my endocrinologist wants me to get off Cytomel. I am worried because I felt horrible before added cytomel to my synthroid. Could you please let me know if you stayed on Cytomel during your pregnancy and if so what were the risks. Thanks for you time

    • Sarah Young December 12, 2015 at 8:56 am #

      I did stay on 5 mcg Cytomel the whole time. The only risks are affects your and your baby’s heart rates if you become over medicated. Just check your Free T3 regularly. Mine was always on the lower end of the range and I didn’t experience heart palpitations, so I knew I was okay. My Endo was a jerk about it too, so I had my OBGYN monitor my meds during my pregnancy so that I could stay on Cytomel. I wrote a post about tracking my meds: Tracking My Hormonal Rollercoaster | Thyroidless
      https://thyroidlesslife.com/2013/06/13/tracking-my-hormonal-rollercoaster/

      Best of luck to you!! My baby is now a gorgeous healthy 2 year-old, and they will have to pry the Cytomel out of my cold, dead hands!

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