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What Heather Rae El Moussa Thought Was Mom Brain Was Something Bigger

The Selling Sunset star initially chalked up her exhaustion and fogginess to “normal” postpartum life. But a blood test revealed her pregnancy had triggered an autoimmune disorder.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published October 30, 2023

At this point, you’ve probably heard of ‘mom brain.’ That foggy, fatigued feeling that comes with sleepless nights and the responsibility of caring for a whole new life. But sometimes, there’s more to the story postpartum than just mom brain.

Around four months after giving birth to her son Tristan, Selling Sunset star Heather Rae El Moussa was beyond tired. “I remember saying to my assistant, ‘I feel like I’m dead,” El Moussa told Today. “My brain was so tired. My body was so tired. I was exhausted all the time and no amount of sleep could make it better.” The reality TV star dreaded days on set for The Flipping El Moussas and Selling Sunset, recalling that she could barely get out of bed.

Through it all, the first-time mom figured the exhaustion was simply a part of motherhood. “I was like, I’m probably just foggy because of mom brain,’” she recalled. But after several weeks of exhaustion, a new symptom cropped up. Her milk supply had dropped off dramatically. One day she was pumping more than 6 ounces of milk, and the next she was lucky if she got half an ounce.

At the suggestion of her lactation consultant, the 36-year-old made an appointment to get blood work done. The results showed that El Moussa’s issues extended well beyond mom brain. Her pregnancy had triggered an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s.

Common among middle-aged women, Hashimoto’s disease attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism, which leads to symptoms that can mirror mom brain, like exhaustion and problems with memory and concentration.

“When she told me what I had, I was in total shock,” El Moussa said. The condition was at the root of not only her exhaustion but also her depleted milk supply. Within a few days of taking medication to get her thyroid hormone levels back to normal, El Moussa noted that she was feeling much better. While her milk supply had returned to normal Tristan ultimately decided he was done with breastfeeding after around 8 ½ months, the realtor revealed in a Instagram post.

“As I write this, my heart is full but also my mama heart is a little sad because my big boy does not want to breastfeed anymore,” she wrote. “About 2 1/2-3 weeks ago, Tristan started to get un-interested & would just pull away and blow bubbles but he would still end up enjoying our morning feeds… until today and I don’t want to force him so I’m trusting the process, like I have from the start. I will still offer it to him but he’s a busy boy these days and is just so distracted.”

El Moussa notes that she’s “proud to have made it this long,” surpassing her goal to breastfeed for 4 and then 6 months. “We had a lot of things working against us, including my autoimmune disorder, but we did it,” El Moussa told Today. “I’ve heard so many women say, ‘I only breastfed 2 months,’ and that makes me feel sad. Why ‘only?’ You should feel so proud that you even did it at all!”

Whether you’re struggling with breastfeeding, mom brain or something beyond like El Moussa, know you’re not alone. Take pride in your journey and take care of yourself. Ultimately you know best when something may be off. Don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor about your postpartum symptoms and ask what may be going beyond “normal” postpartum life.

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