Nowadays, more and more people are suffering from thyroid disorders, with an increasing number of women claiming to have some form of thyroid issue in India.
Although thyroid issues are not severe in most cases, they can hamper your overall health if ignored. Therefore, it is imperative to be aware of these issues and their treatment when considering pregnancy.
Does the thyroid affect pregnancy? Are there any harmful consequences that need to be monitored, or is it something to be cautious about all the time? Let’s find out!
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located around the neck. This gland produces hormones that play a significant role in your well-being. For example, the thyroid gland secretes hormones that can affect your heart rate and metabolism, among other things.
Sometimes, the thyroid gland can make too much or too little of these hormones. It is known as a thyroid disorder, and it is a widely known health condition.
Some women may find themselves with a thyroid disorder well before they become pregnant, which is known as a pre-existing condition. At the same time, some may develop thyroid conditions for the first time during their pregnancy or even postpartum.
If the thyroid condition is treated, it is unlikely to lead to any problems during pregnancy. However, if it goes untreated, these conditions can cause significant problems for the woman and her baby during pregnancy and after birth.
Types of Thyroid Issues
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone. As a result, it speeds up and hyperactivates some of the body’s functions.
These are medical conditions where antibodies attack healthy tissue by accident. In this case, the immune system makes antibodies that cause the thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone.
In rare cases, it can result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps on the gland that lead to overproduction of the hormone. It can also result from autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ disease.
Hyperthyroidism and Pregnancy
Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism often occur within normal pregnancies, including a faster heart rate, hot flashes, and extreme fatigue. However, some other signs specifically suggest 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 beforehand, symptoms improve during the second and third trimesters. However, it may become worse once again postpartum since TSI levels can go up again.
Hyperthyroidism, in rare cases, leads 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 could occur due to high HCG levels early in the pregnancy, which can cause the gland to produce too much of the thyroid hormone. It usually goes away in the second half of pregnancy.
If the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, it can cause the body’s functions to slow down. It can result from an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease.
With this condition, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the thyroid gland and end up damaging it, so it cannot produce its normal hormones.
Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy
Other than sporadic exceptions, the symptoms of hypothyroidism in pregnancy are mostly the same as in other individuals. These can include extreme tiredness, trouble dealing with the cold, muscle cramps, severe constipation, and problems with focus and memory. In addition, as mentioned above, it is usually caused by Hashimoto’s disease and occurs more often than hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid’s Impact on Pregnancy
If a woman’s thyroid disorder goes undiagnosed or remains untreated, it can lead to issues during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: A severe blood pressure condition that presents after the twentieth week of pregnancy or postpartum, 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 wherein the placenta separates from the uterus wall well before birth. It could deprive the baby of food and oxygen. Thyroid Storm: A rare occurrence when thyroid symptoms suddenly worsen. It poses a high risk of heart failure. Heart attackPremature birth Goitres Low birth weight of the baby Thyroid problems in the baby Miscarriage or stillbirth
Anaemia Gestational Hypertension: High blood pressure that begins after twenty weeks of pregnancy and goes away after birthPreeclampsia Placental abruption Postpartum Haemorrhage (PPH): It is a condition when a woman undergoes heavy bleeding even after giving birth that lasts anywhere from one day to around twelve weeks. Myxedema: It is a rare condition caused by untreated hypothyroidism that can lead to a coma and, eventually, death Heart failureInfantile Myxedema: This can cause dwarfism in the child and intellectual disabilities. Low birth weight of the baby Problems with baby’s growth, brain and nervous development Thyroid problems in the baby Miscarriage or stillbirth
The HealthifyMe Note
If a pregnant woman’s thyroid disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause severe conditions such as preeclampsia, placental abruption, and heart failure in the mother. It can also lead to long-term consequences for the child, including low birth weight and intellectual disabilities.
If you have mild hyperthyroidism, you likely won’t need treatment. You can manage the condition well through dietary modifications under an expert nutritionist’s guidance.
Healthcare experts at HealthifyMe can help create a customised meal plan considering your health to combat the disease,
In a more severe case, you may need antithyroid medication, which will cause the gland to secrete fewer hormones. Sometimes radioactive iodine is 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 medicines are even safe to take in low doses while the woman is breastfeeding.
Particular medicines that replace the hormone T4 are the most common treatment for this condition, as your body is not producing enough of it. Although they are safe to take during pregnancy, you must always consult a doctor regarding their usage during pregnancy.
However, an essential plan of action to manage the condition is making lifestyle changes. You can contact dietitians and nutritionists at HealthifyMe to help create a modified eating plan to prevent thyroid issues.
There are many ways thyroid disorders can affect pregnancy, but these consequences only occur when the disorder is not treated. If you take timely treatment for your thyroid disorder, it should not harm you or your child.
However, it is still important to speak to and remain in contact with a medical professional throughout your pregnancy to stay aware of any advancements 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.