Nowadays, more and more people are suffering from thyroid disorders, with more and more women claiming to have some form of thyroid problem in India.
Although thyroid problems are not serious in most cases, they can hinder your overall health if ignored. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of and treat these issues when considering pregnancy.
Does the thyroid gland affect pregnancy? Are there any harmful consequences to watch for, or is it something to be careful about all the time? Let’s find out!
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located around the neck. This gland produces hormones that play an important role in your health. For example, the thyroid gland secretes hormones that can affect heart rate and metabolism, among other things.
Sometimes, the thyroid gland can make too much or too little of these hormones. Known as a thyroid disorder, it is a widely recognized health condition.
Some women may find themselves diagnosed with a thyroid disorder long before pregnancy, which is known as a pre-existing condition. At the same time, some may develop thyroid disease for the first time during pregnancy or even after childbirth.
If a thyroid condition is treated, it is very unlikely to lead to any problems during pregnancy. However, if not treated, these conditions can cause major problems for the woman and her baby during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Types of thyroid problems
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. As a result, it speeds up and activates some body functions.
These are medical conditions where antibodies attack healthy tissue by accident. In this condition, the immune system produces antibodies that cause the thyroid gland to secrete too much thyroid hormone.
In rare cases, it can result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps on the gland that lead to an overproduction of the hormone. It can also result from autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ disease.
Hyperthyroidism and pregnancy
Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism often occur during a normal pregnancy, including a racing heart rate, hot flashes, and extreme fatigue. However, some other signs point specifically to hyperthyroidism, such as a fast and irregular heartbeat, trembling hands, rapid weight loss, and failure to gain normal weight during pregnancy.
Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is usually due to Graves’ disease and is common among women. The antibody produced during this disorder is called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI).
Signs of this disease tend to first appear during pregnancy. However, it is possible that if you had the disease previously, the symptoms improve during the second and third trimesters. However, it may become worse again after delivery as TSI levels can rise again.
Hyperthyroidism leads, in rare cases, to a severe form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum. It can lead to a lot of weight loss and dehydration.
In addition, it can be caused by high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) early in pregnancy, which can cause the gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. It usually goes away in the second half of pregnancy.
If the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, this can slow down body functions. It can result from an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease.
In this condition, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland and end up damaging it, so it can no longer produce its natural hormones.
Hypothyroidism and pregnancy
Other than isolated exceptions, the symptoms of hypothyroidism during pregnancy are mostly the same as in other individuals. This can include extreme fatigue, difficulty coping with cold, muscle spasms, severe constipation, and problems with concentration and memory. In addition, as mentioned earlier, it is commonly caused by Hashimoto’s disease and occurs more often than hyperthyroidism.
The effect of the thyroid gland on pregnancy
If a woman’s thyroid disorder is not diagnosed or remains untreated, it can lead to problems during pregnancy.
- Eclampsia: A severe blood pressure condition that appears after the 20th week of pregnancy or after childbirth, along with signs that some vital organs may not work effectively. It stresses the heart and can lead to a lot of problems.
- Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the arteries within the lungs and the right side of the heart.
- placental abruption A condition in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall long before delivery. The child may be deprived of food and oxygen.
- Thyroid irritation: It is rare when thyroid symptoms suddenly get worse. It poses a high risk of heart failure.
- Heart attack
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Thyroid problems in a child
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- High blood pressure during pregnancy: High blood pressure that begins after twenty weeks of pregnancy and resolves after delivery
- placental abruption
- Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH): It is a condition in which a woman experiences heavy bleeding even after childbirth that lasts anywhere from one day to about twelve weeks.
- myxedema: It is a rare condition caused by untreated hypothyroidism and can lead to coma and eventually death
- heart failure
- Infantile myxedema: This can cause dwarfism in the child and intellectual disabilities.
- Low birth weight
- Problems with the child’s growth, brain and neurological development
- Thyroid problems in a child
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
If a thyroid disorder in a pregnant woman is not diagnosed and not treated, it can cause serious conditions such as pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, and heart failure in the mother. It can also lead to long-term consequences for the baby, including low birth weight and intellectual disabilities.
If you have mild hyperthyroidism, you likely won’t need treatment. You can manage the condition well with dietary modifications under the supervision of a nutritionist.
The healthcare experts at HealthifyMe can help create a customized meal plan with your health in mind to fight disease,
In a more serious case, you may need an antithyroid medication, which causes the gland to make fewer hormones. Radioactive iodine is sometimes used to treat this condition.
But this is a strict no for pregnant women, as this can cause more thyroid problems in the baby. Antithyroid medications are considered safe even when taken in low doses while breastfeeding.
Special medications that replace the T4 hormone are the most common treatment for this condition, as your body does not produce enough of it. Although it is safe during pregnancy, you should always consult your physician regarding its use during pregnancy.
However, the basic plan of action for managing the condition is to make lifestyle changes. You can contact HealthifyMe’s registered dietitians and nutritionists for help creating a modified eating plan to prevent thyroid problems.
There are many ways that thyroid disorders can affect pregnancy, but these consequences only occur when the disorder is not treated. If you are taking timely treatment for your thyroid disorder, it should not harm you or your baby.
However, it is still important to speak to and stay in touch with a medical professional throughout your pregnancy to stay informed of any developments in your condition.
Moreover, nutrition and healthy eating habits can help manage thyroid conditions. Hence, consult a nutrition guide to prevent the condition from becoming severe.