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With postpartum thyroiditis, postpartum means "after birth", thyroid refers to the thyroid gland, and -itis means inflammation, so postpartum thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland that women experience after giving birth.
Normally, the hypothalamus, which is located at the base of the brain, secretes thyrotropin-releasing hormone, or ΤRH, into the hypophyseal portal system - which is a network of capillaries linking the hypothalamus to the anterior pituitary gland.
The anterior pituitary then releases a hormone of its own, called thyroid-stimulating hormone, thyrotropin, or simply TSH.
TSH stimulates the thyroid gland, which is a gland located in the neck that looks like two thumbs hooked together in the shape of a “V”.
If we zoom into the thyroid gland, we’ll find thousands of follicles, which contain a sticky substance called colloid, which sits within follicular cells.
Follicular cells convert the protein thyroglobulin into two iodine-containing hormones, triiodothyronine or T3, and thyroxine or T4.
Once released from the thyroid gland, these hormones enter the blood and the majority is bound to circulating plasma proteins, with only a small amount of T3 and T4 traveling unbound in the blood.
Ultimately, these two hormones get picked up by nearly every cell in the body.
Once inside the cell T4 is mostly converted into T3, and it can exert its effect. T3 speeds up the basal metabolic rate.
T3 increases cardiac output, stimulates bone resorption - thinning out the bones, and activates the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for our ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
Postpartum thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland that occurs a few months after giving birth, resulting in either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The first phase is typically hyperthyroidism. Then, the thyroid either returns to normal or a woman develops hypothyroidism. In some cases, the inflammation may subside without any treatment, but once permanent hypothyroidism develops, there is a need for lifelong treatment with thyroid hormone replacement medications.
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