Now that you are pregnant, it is important that you take good care of your health and wellbeing to ensure that your baby is born healthy and happy. Be sure to follow the proper pregnancy diet, participate in frequent exercise, and monitor yourself for the signs and symptoms of illness and disease. You may want to pay particular attention to the symptoms associated with thyroid disease. Thyroid disease affects many women during their childbearing years, but when it occurs during pregnancy, it can cause a number of health complications that could affect the health of you and your baby.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is a small gland located beneath the skin and muscles in the front section of your neck. Located just below the spot where a manï¿½s Adamï¿½s apple would form, the thyroid gland is responsible for manufacturing and releasing a number of different hormones. Itï¿½s primary hormone is known as thyroxine, or T4, which plays a large role in directing your bodyï¿½s metabolism and growth functions.
What is Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to supply the appropriate amounts of hormone to the body. As a result, your bodyï¿½s metabolism and growth functions may not operate properly. The most common types of thyroid disease include:
- Hypothyroidism, in which the thyroid gland doesnï¿½t release enough hormones.
- Hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid gland produces too many hormones.
These disease can be particularly problematic during pregnancy, and may result in a number of health complications.
Hypothyroidism in Pregnancy
Hypothyroidism is one of the most common types of thyroid disease occurring during pregnancy. In fact, between 2% and 4% of pregnant women have to contend with the disease.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are often difficult to detect during pregnancy, and may be mistaken for simple pregnancy discomforts. Symptoms include:
- fatigue and weakness
- weight gain
- frequent muscle aches
- cold intolerance
Complications of Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy
Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism typically requires daily treatment. Prompt treatment is especially important during pregnancy, because hypothyroidism can increase your risk of certain pregnancy complications including:
- preterm labor
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can also put your child at risk for developmental problems. In fact, studies have shown that women with untreated hypothyroidism are four times more likely to give birth to a child with a low IQ.
Treating Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy
Quick treatment of hypothyroidism is essential during pregnancy. When treated during the first trimester, the risk of giving birth to a child with developmental issues is greatly reduced. Treatment typically involves taking daily doses of an artificial form of the thyroxine hormone.
If you were diagnosed with hypothyroidism prior to pregnancy, your treatment dosages may have to be increased now that you are pregnant. This is because iron supplements and calcium supplements taken during pregnancy often interfere with thyroxine absorption. For this reason, always try to take your hypothyroidism medication on an empty stomach, either one hour prior to meals, or two hours after meals.
Hyperthyroidism During Pregnancy
Hyperthyroidism can also occur during pregnancy. This type of thyroid disease affects one in every 500 hundred pregnant women. It can develop prior to pregnancy or it may manifest for the first time during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
As with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often difficult to diagnose during pregnancy. Pregnancy frequently works to mask the symptoms, which may include:
- weight loss
- fatigue and weakness
- nausea and vomiting
- heat intolerance
Complications of Hyperthyroidism During Pregnancy
If hyperthyroidism is treated throughout your pregnancy, than you and your baby are at no increased risk of any health related problems. Most women who are treated for the disease go on to experience normal pregnancies. However, if you are suffering from uncontrolled or untreated hyperthyroidism, than you are at increased risk for:
- miscarriage or stillbirth
- iron deficiency-related anemia
Though labor and delivery is usually unaffected by the disease, there is also a risk of developing "thyroid storm." This life-threatening condition is associated with exacerbated hyperthyroidism symptoms, including:
- extremely high fever
- severe vomiting and diarrhea
- very high heart rate
Treating Hyperthyroidism During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and think that you may be suffering from hyperthyroidism, then it essential to seek appropriate treatment. Your health care provider will perform a blood test and measure your thyroid hormone levels.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism involves lowering the amount of thyroid hormone to more acceptable levels. Generally, this involves taking the mediation propylthiouracil. This medication is entirely safe to take during pregnancy, and should be continued throughout your three trimesters, as well as after labor and delivery. If your health care provider is having difficulty controlling your thyroid hormone levels, she may suggest surgery to remove the thyroid hormone altogether.
Women diagnosed with hyperthyroidism prior to pregnancy should make an appointment with their health care provider to have their hormone levels measured and to discuss changing the dose of their medication.
Whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it is important to have your thyroid levels regularly monitored throughout your pregnancy. Because your thyroid levels can change from month to month, it may be necessary to adjust your medication dosage at various points during your pregnancy.