We really appreciate this fit mom guest post from Sarah Young. Sarah Young is a 35-year old papillary thyroid cancer survivor and soon-to-be mother of three girls. Sarah likes to TurboKick her stress away and prides herself on the perfect 30-minute running playlist. You can read more about her journey through thyroid cancer and life without a thyroid at thyroidlesslife.com.
After my second daughter was born, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. My chances for survival were very good – more than 95% – but my chances for a permanently decreased metabolism, altered quality of life and infertility were also very high. Two years after my cancer treatment, I became pregnant for the third time, and I celebrated my good fortune. But then I immediately got to work on a plan for a healthy pregnancy.
Nearly 10% of the female population has some sort of thyroid disease, and uncontrolled hypothyroidism can cause serious pregnancy complications. I was personally very concerned that my thyroidlessness would magnify the already difficult challenges pregnancy poses on health and fitness. As I enter my 35th week of pregnancy, I am happy to report that I feel and look great, and so does my baby! Here are my top tips for a healthy hypothyroid pregnancy.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS AND FATIGUE
I work full-time, have two young children and live a go-go-go lifestyle. It was important to me that during this pregnancy, I had enough quiet time to listen to my body. Make a list of your weekly activities, and ask yourself which ones are critical, and which could take a backseat for a season. Ask for help where you can. Rely on friends, family and neighbors. Give yourself permission to say no when you need to, and prioritize rest and rejuvenation.
MANAGE YOUR MEDICATION
A women’s thyroid hormone needs can increase as much as 60% during pregnancy. Unfortunately, most doctors take a reactive approach to medication management. Through my own experience and research, I worked out a schedule to track my own progress. I also found that most doctors primarily use thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) as a hormone marker, but my own symptoms are more closely linked to my free hormone levels – free T4 and free T3. I had my doctor check all three levels the day I had a positive pregnancy test, and then every 4 weeks after that. As my pregnancy progressed, I needed to increase my dose and am now taking 40% more medication than I was pre-pregnancy to keep my TSH in lower end of the normal range, and my free hormone levels in the mid- to upper-ranges. The lab I use provides an iPhone app for patients to save and track their own results, but you can also do this in your own spreadsheet. The important thing is to take ownership and partner with your doctor to stay on top of your hormone needs and give both you and your baby what he/she needs.
MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT GAIN
Most non-pregnant hypothyroid women struggle to control their weight. In my experience, the slightest variation in thyroid hormone levels can result in 10 pounds that I have to work extra hard to lose. Naturally I was nervous about what a pregnancy with fluctuations in hormone needs would mean for me. To make matters more challenging, I rely on very high-impact activities to manage my weight when I am not pregnant, like TurboKick and running. During my first trimester, I continued these activities, but I definitely needed to modify my fitness plan as my body changed and my belly grew. Now I enjoy walking and Tracy Anderson’s The Pregnancy Project videos to keep me as fit as possible, and I focus on eating frequent, smaller, protein-packed meals. I use the Pregnancy Pounds iPhone app to watch for any big jumps in weight gain (which could indicate an issue with my medication dosage). I give myself small treats instead of big splurges to control my cravings, and I drink a lot of water. As I enter my last month of pregnancy, I have gained about 20 pounds, which is healthy for my body type, and actually less than I gained with my other pregnancies.
Generally speaking, hypothyroid women can have happy, healthy pregnancies too. Listen to your body, make modifications when you need to, stay fueled and hydrated, own your treatment plan, watch for major weight fluctuations, and treat yourself once in awhile!
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Please welcome Alyssa, our latest For Two Fitness Ambassador! Alyssa is the mom of two young girls, and is excited to have number 3 on the way. She keeps fit during pregnancy and postnatal times by walking, practicing yoga, and doing low impact strength training. Alyssa has run a number of half marathons, and is looking forward to participating in one in 2019. Please follow Alyssa on her website.