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Thyroid and Pregnancy: A Brief Overview

Thyroid is an organ that controls hormone production in response to internal and external stimuli thereby affecting almost every organ of our body. The thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism, heart, nervous system, weight, body temperature and many more processes that take place in the body.

During pregnancy, thyroid gland plays a very important role both in the health of the mother and the development of the baby.

A Pre-existing hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism could mean that extra medical assistance and care during pregnancy. But pregnancy is also known to cause symptoms that similar to a thyroid disease. So it’s important to find out from your doctor if you have thyroid problems or the symptoms are just from pregnancy.

Hyperthyroidism

This is generally caused by Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and organs instead of foreign bacteria and viruses.

A few symptoms of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy are:

1. Irregular heartbeat

2. Nausea or vomiting

3. Trouble getting sleep

4. Weight loss or abnormally low weight gain during pregnancy.

5. Tremors and nervousness

Unmonitored hyperthyroidism could lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, heart failure and preeclampsia (rise in blood pressure)

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism in pregnancy is due to Hashimoto's disease which results in chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. It can also be as a result of the previous removal of the thyroid as a treatment for hyperthyroidism.

These are the common symptoms of hypothyroidism during pregnancy:

1. Extreme tiredness

2. Sensitive to extreme temperatures especially cold

3. Constipation

4. Muscle cramps

5. Memory problems

Uncontrolled hypothyroidism during pregnancy could cause miscarriage, stillbirth, anemia, preeclampsia and so on..

Thyroid disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical exam and blood tests to measure the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels.

Treatment:

For hyperthyroidism, antithyroid medications are recommended that will decrease the production of thyroid hormone. In cases where women don’t respond to this medication or have side effects because of it, a part of the thyroid gland may be removed.

Hypothyroidism is treated with a hormone called levothyroxine which is similar to hormone T4. The dosage will depend on the amount of TSH levels. If you are already taking levothyroxine then it’s important to tell your doctor about it when you get pregnant because the dosage requirements will vary.

Despite everything most women with thyroid problems still have healthy pregnancies by taking the required medicine and keeping a check on the hormonal changes. 

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