Being a mother encompasses many different responsibilities – including your child’s development. This responsibility starts from an early stage – when your child begins developing inside your womb.
Unfortunately, sometimes, our bodies do not cooperate with our wishes and during pregnancy, unexpected situations derail our plans. One of the most notable threats to pregnant women would be thyroid problems in pregnancy – its prevalence makes thyroid conditions potent.
In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney diseases has reported that in every 100 pregnant women, 3-4 suffer from thyroid problems in pregnancy.
You may ask what exactly is the thyroid, and what preventive measures should be taken to ensure that your child is not affected?
Read on to find out the most commonly asked questions about thyroid problems in pregnancy.
Thyroid problems in pregnancy: How Hypothyroidism in pregnancy affects your baby’s development
Image source: iStock
The thyroid is a gland that produces thyroid hormones. These hormones control how your body uses energy and thus affect the way nearly every organ in your body works.
Additionally, it is crucial for the normal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system.
In fact, during the first trimester, your baby depends on your supply of thyroid hormone, which comes through the placenta. At around 12 weeks, your baby’s thyroid will start to work on its own. However, it will not produce enough thyroid hormone until 18-20 weeks of pregnancy.
Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy vs hypothyroidism
When your thyroid gland is unable to produce enough hormones for healthy thyroid function, you have hypothyroidism. Your body’s metabolism is entirely under the direction of your thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland generates fewer hormones when a person has hypothyroidism. Your metabolism slows as a result, which may cause you to gain weight.
According to the American Thyroid Association, hypothyroidism has no known cure. However, the illness can be treated with medications. The medication will enable regular hormone levels, healthy thyroid function, and normal daily living for you.
Your body develops hyperthyroidism in pregnancy and becomes overactive when it generates too much of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, anxiety, sensitivity to heat, or unexpected weight loss.
Hypothyroidism in pregnancy should not be taken lightly, as it could have severe implications on you and your baby.
- Untreated hyperthyroidism in pregnancy can lead miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight, affecting your baby’s development.
- For mothers, possible implications include a dangerous rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy, a sudden severe worsening of symptoms, and congestive heart failure.
- Similarly, an overactive thyroid in a newborn can lead to a fast heart rate, which in time leads to heart failure, early closing of the soft spot in the baby’s skull, irritability, and poor weight gain.
As such, to maintain your and your child’s good health, it is crucial that you keep thyroid hormone levels within a healthy range.
High tsh in pregnancy
A study entitled, “Preconception TSH levels and pregnancy outcomes: a population-based cohort study in 184,611 women”, said that marginally elevated TSH levels prior to conception may be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, pregnancy loss, cesarean delivery, and large-for-gestational-age infants.
Prior to now, little in-depth study has been done on the relationship between TSH levels before conception and pregnancy complications.
Although it is uncertain whether treating mothers with higher TSH levels will have any impact on these results, more research should be done to evaluate this possibility.
This study recommends, however, that pregnant women with borderline high TSH levels receive further TSH testing early on and be referred for medication if necessary.
What are the common causes of Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy?
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in pregnancy have different causes and effects.
Pertaining to hypothyroidism, the most common cause is the autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Hypothyroidism can occur during pregnancy due to the initial presentation of a chronically inflamed thyroid gland or the inadequate treatment of a woman already known to have hypothyroidism from a variety of causes.
Approximately 2.5% of women will have a thyroid-stimulating hormone level of greater than 6mIU/L (slightly elevated), and 0/4% will have a thyroid-stimulating hormone level of greater than 10mIU/L during pregnancy, according to the American Thyroid Association.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism in pregnant women is Grave’s disease, which occurs in 0.2% of pregnant patients.
This occurs when there is an overproduction of thyroid hormone by the entire thyroid gland. In addition to other usual causes of hyperthyroidism, another condition of hyperthyroidism is characterized by one or more nodules in the thyroid that may gradually grow and increase activity so that the total output of thyroid hormone into the blood is greater than normal.
This is also known as toxic nodular goiter.
Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy symptoms
Image source: iStock
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism have symptoms that take different forms. Symptoms of an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) during pregnancy include:
- Being sensitive to cold
- Weight gain
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Dry and scaly skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism in pregnancy) during pregnancy include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heightened nervousness
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Shaking hands (slight tremor)
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss or low weight gain beyond that expected of a typical pregnancy
If you are pregnant and have any of these symptoms, it is advisable to contact your doctor immediately.
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Can pregnancy cause hypothyroidism?
Two to three out of every 100 pregnancies experience hypothyroidism during pregnancy, which is typically caused by the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease.
Antibodies made by the immune system assault the thyroid in Hashimoto’s disease, causing inflammation and damage that lowers the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones.
If pregnancy-related hypothyroidism is not treated, it can cause:
Since thyroid hormones are essential for your baby’s brain and nervous system development, untreated hypothyroidism—especially in the first trimester—can cause low IQ and problems with normal growth.
How is Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
Image source: iStock
It is best to consult a physician immediately if you have any hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism in pregnancy symptoms.
If the physician suspects that you have a thyroid disorder, a simple physical examination will be carried out to detect tell-tale signs.
- The warning signs of hyperthyroidism detected through a physical examination include an enlarged thyroid gland and a rapid pulse.
- The physician will also look for moist, smooth skin and a tremor in your fingers. This diagnosis will be confirmed by laboratory tests that measure the number of thyroid hormones in your blood.
- A high level of thyroxine and a low level of thyroid-stimulating hormone indicates an overactive thyroid. Your doctor may also want to obtain a picture of your thyroid through imaging for further analysis.
To diagnose hypothyroidism, the doctor will review your medical history and symptoms.
- After which, a blood test that measures the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone and sometimes the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine will be taken.
- A low level of thyroxine and high thyroid levels in pregnancy indicates an under-active thyroid.
Is it safe to breastfeed while taking beta-blockers, Thyroid hormone, or Antithyroid medicines?
Certain beta-blockers are safe to use during breastfeeding as only small amounts show up in breast milk. Nonetheless, taking the smallest dose to relieve symptoms is best.
Negligible thyroid medication will reach your baby through breast milk. Thus the above medications are relatively safe to take while breastfeeding.
However, it is safest to converse with your doctor and obtain their recommendation with regards to how you should go about breastfeeding while on the above medications.
What should I eat during pregnancy to help keep my Thyroid and my baby’s Thyroid working well?
In general, eating a healthy and nutritious diet during pregnancy is important, because a good diet is linked to good brain development and healthy birth weight.
However, specific to thyroid functionality, research has found that certain foods are closely linked to a healthy thyroid.
The thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones, thus iodine is an important mineral for you while you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, your baby also gets iodine from your diet – you will need more iodine while you’re pregnant.
Iodine-rich foods include dairy foods, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry, and iodized salt. Experts also recommend taking iodine tablets with 150mg of iodine to make sure that you are getting sufficient levels of iodine.
If you are breastfeeding, you will also need more iodine, as your baby will get his/her iodine content from breast milk.
Conversely, do note that taking too many iodine-rich supplements can also cause thyroid problems. Thus, it is advisable that you talk to your doctor to discuss the eating plan that is right for you and the supplements that you should take.
What is postpartum thyroiditis and am I at risk of developing it?
Postpartum thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid that affects about 1 in 20 women during the first year after giving birth, as reported by the National Immune and Kidney Disease Association.
The inflammation causes stored thyroid hormones to leak out of your thyroid gland. Initially, the leakage raises the hormone levels in your blood, following which the damage to your thyroid may cause it to become under-active.
Symptoms include irritability, trouble dealing with heat and sleeping, a fast heartbeat, and tiredness.
Your health journey doesn’t end after giving birth to your child. It is important to look after your health as well. If these symptoms present themselves in the first few months after your baby is born, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
How to control thyroid during pregnancy
While thyroid problems can be hard to diagnose in pregnancy due to higher levels of thyroid hormones and other symptoms that occur both in pregnancy and thyroid disorders, keeping an eye out for symptoms and diagnosing early can allow you to have a healthy pregnancy and protect your baby’s health.
As a continuation of diagnosis, you should have regular thyroid function tests and take the prescribed medication to maintain your thyroid levels.
At Speedoc, we provide services to help you monitor and manage your thyroid conditions with our Chronic Disease Home Management (CDHM)™ programme.
Learn more about Speedoc and how it can help you get professional healthcare whenever you need it, wherever you are. Visit their website at: https://speedoc.com/sg/
This article was first published in Speedoc and republished on theAsianparent with permission.
Additional information from Margaux Dolores
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