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I had an image in my head of pregnancy on top of Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism causing me extra fatigue, and whilst I did expect some flare up days, I felt very lucky in that they were certainly not frequent.
However, when they did strike, I noticed a slight difference in my approach to these more difficult days with thyroid disease, now I was pregnant.
What Is a ‘Thyroid Flare Up’?
A Hashimoto’s or thyroid flare up is defined by an increase in symptoms of the thyroid condition. A flare usually lasts for a few days to a few weeks. Symptoms can differ from person to person, although the most commonly reported in a flare up are:
- Increased fatigue
- Heaviness (as if your body is being weighed down)
- Worsened mental health
- Brain fog
- Flu-like symptoms (aches and pains)
- Switching between feeling really cold and really hot
What Causes a Flare Up?
These are the most common triggers according to thyroid patients:
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating poorly (such as a lot of sugary or processed food, not giving your body good nutrition)
- Consuming a known food allergen or sensitivity (such as gluten, dairy, soy etc.)
- Overexertion (mentally and/or physically) – See the spoons post
- Not sticking to a good sleep routine
- Viral, bacterial, fungal etc. infections
- Being on your period or due to start on your period (hormonal fluctuations)
- Pregnancy (which was the case for me)
Thyroid Flare Ups in Pregnancy
I found that flare ups whilst pregnant felt pretty much the same as when non-pregnant, but did have the tendency to be triggered more easily, due to my body handling the added stress of pregnancy on top of my thyroid conditions.
I felt increased fatigue, a slowness and heaviness in my body and a general feeling of being unwell. Sometimes, just being pregnant seemed to hurl flare ups out of nowhere, perhaps when baby was going through a particular growth spurt, but other times, it was from overexertion, which is easier to do when you’re pregnant and forget that your body needs more rest and a slower pace. I was at times guilty of overcommitting myself in terms of plans and to-do’s, as well as not prioritising sleep at night.
Looking after myself on a flare up day became even more important when pregnant, as I was needing to look after my baby too, and do what was best for both of us. Most the time, this was just to rest. However, I also made sure to be vigilant when taking my meds and supplements on time and regularly, eating nutritiously and often, keeping warm and hydrated, stepping back from overstimulation (such as from social media or my mobile phone in general), and spending time to really think about how much my body was doing at that moment in time. Being mindful of the impact of pregnancy on a thyroid patient’s body really helped me to remember that I needed to take extra care of myself.
I still had to work whilst pregnant, so on flare up days I would make adjustments where possible, such as ensuring I took frequent breaks, sipped water all day as a priority, as well as eating well, wearing comfortable clothing and limiting physical activity which made me feel light headed, short of breath and dizzy whilst in a flare up. Starting my day with a bath instead of shower also seemed to help loosen up my body and relieve some of the heavy, tight feelings in my muscles.
Did you experience an increase in flare ups whilst pregnant?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.