If hyperthyroidism, also called Graves’ disease, is properly managed with medication, it’s likely that you’ll be able to breastfeed. Most medications used for hyperthyroidism are safe for babies during nursing.

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Hyperthyroidism, or Graves’ disease, occurs when your body produces too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland on the front of your neck, becomes overactive.

Hyperthyroidism can cause your metabolism to speed up, and symptoms may include weight loss, anxiety, racing heart rate, and sleeplessness.

If you’re a nursing parent with hyperthyroidism, you may have several questions. You may want to know how the condition will affect breastfeeding and whether your thyroid medication is safe for your nursing baby.

You can breastfeed with hyperthyroidism, and most thyroid medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

If you have hyperthyroidism that’s diagnosed before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or afterward (postpartum), you may wonder how the condition will impact your ability to nurse your baby. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, your ability to lactate and produce milk can be impacted.

Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can affect your milk supply and cause you to underproduce or overproduce milk. But, if hyperthyroidism is properly managed through medications, you should be able to correct any lactation or milk supply issues that may come up.

The American Thyroid Association’s guidelines for treating thyroid conditions during pregnancy and postpartum recommend that pediatricians carefully monitor all babies of breastfeeding parents who are taking medication for hyperthyroidism to be sure the babies have healthy growth and development.

Some tests used to diagnose hyperthyroidism may not be safe for your baby if you’re nursing. The following tests are used to diagnose hyperthyroidism.

If you need to have any thyroid test that involves radioactive iodine while you’re breastfeeding, the American Thyroid Association recommends that you stop breastfeeding for a few days after the procedure.

If you plan to continue nursing your baby after your radioactive iodine test, you may pump and discard the milk (often called “pump and dump”) for comfort and to keep your milk supply steady.

Radioactive iodine uptake test

In addition to blood tests, your physician may order a radioactive iodine uptake test, which involves swallowing a capsule of radioactive iodine and testing to see how much iodine is absorbed by your thyroid.

Any test that involves radioactive iodine isn’t safe for a nursing baby, according to the American Thyroid Association guidelines. If you need to have this test done while you’re breastfeeding, it’s recommended to stop breastfeeding for a few days after the procedure.

During the period that you don’t nurse, your baby will need to be fed with the breast milk you pumped before your radioactive iodine uptake test. While you don’t nurse, you can pump and dump your milk so that you don’t have a dip in your milk supply. A doctor or healthcare professional will let you know when it’s safe to continue breastfeeding.

Blood tests

Blood tests for hyperthyroidism are safe during breastfeeding. These blood tests for hyperthyroidism measure the amount of:

Two antithyroid medications are commonly used to treat hyperthyroidism: propylthiouracil (PTU) and methimazole. Both of these medications are considered safe for use during breastfeeding.

PTU is often considered the drug of choice when treating hyperthyroidism during breastfeeding because the amount of PTU excreted into breast milk is small. Dosages up to 450 milligrams (mg) per day are considered safe during lactation.

Taking methimazole while nursing hasn’t been found to impact thyroid function or development in babies. Dosages up to 20 mg per day are considered safe, according to the American Thyroid Association.

Iodine deficiency is often linked to thyroid dysfunction, and some people with thyroid disorders consider iodine supplementation. However, there are no specific guidelines about how much iodine supplementation is safe for nursing babies, and too much iodine may actually cause thyroid dysfunction to worsen.

The American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding parents take no more than 150 micrograms of potassium iodide in supplement form to avoid excessive iodine in general during breastfeeding.

If you’re breastfeeding and have hyperthyroidism, you may want to take only the amount of iodine supplement that a doctor or healthcare professional recommends. Also, you may want to be careful when eating iodine-rich foods, such as seaweed.

Postpartum hyperthyroidism occurs when hyperthyroidism develops after you give birth. When this happens, it’s usually caused by a condition called “postpartum thyroiditis.”

Postpartum thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that’s marked by inflammation of the thyroid. At first, the thyroid becomes overactive and can result in hyperthyroidism. Later on, the condition can progress to hypothyroidism.

Postpartum thyroiditis affects about 5% of postpartum parents and often clears up on its own without treatment. Sometimes medications, such as beta-blockers, are used to help control symptoms during the hyperthyroidism phase of postpartum thyroiditis.

When hyperthyroidism is controlled with medication, it’s safe to breastfeed. Still, it’s important to monitor your baby for healthy growth, as thyroid issues can sometimes affect milk supply.

Here are some tips for making sure that your baby is getting enough milk:

  • In newborns, look for five to six wet diapers and at least two poopy diapers a day.
  • Breastfeed your baby 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
  • Offer to nurse your baby whenever they’re fussy or showing symptoms of hunger (smacking lips, sucking on fingers, or rooting).
  • Have your baby regularly weighed at a pediatrician’s office.

Can you breastfeed if you need thyroid removal surgery?

Rarely thyroid conditions are treated by removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy). Anesthetics used during surgery are found in low amounts in breast milk. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, you should be able to resume breastfeeding after surgeries such as thyroid removal surgery.

Can you take beta-blockers while breastfeeding?

Beta-blockers are sometimes prescribed to control hyperthyroidism symptoms, such as:

Some beta-blockers, such as metoprolol and propranolol, may be safe during breastfeeding, but not all beta-blockers are considered safe. Consult with a physician to find out which medications are best for you.

How can I find out more about which hyperthyroidism medications are safe during breastfeeding?

Speak with a physician or pediatrician about any recommended medication. You can also consult LactMed, a database sponsored by the National Library of Medicine that compiles the latest research on how medications may affect breastfeeding.

Having a medical condition like hyperthyroidism can be stressful if you’re a breastfeeding parent, but it’s possible to breastfeed if you have hyperthyroidism. Managing your condition with the correct medication can help ensure that you have a good milk supply.

If you have any further questions about breastfeeding and hyperthyroidism, talk with your OB-GYN, midwife, or a lactation consultant who has been approved by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.