Thyroid dysfunctions during pregnancy require special attention and treatment due to the possible fetal complications that they pose. Find out here what the causes, symptoms and treatments are.
The thyroid gland might seem like an insignificant part of your throat but did you know that the hormones produced here affect many processes in your body? Dysfunction of the thyroid requires special attention and treatment during pregnancy because it can lead to possible fetal complications.
How does thyroid deficiency affect pregnancy?
A thyroid deficiency or hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid-related dysfunction that occurs during pregnancy. The main symptoms include morning fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, muscular cramps, memory loss, anaemia, weight gain, low heart rate and fluid retention in eyelids.
The common causes of thyroid deficiency include Hashimoto disease, iodine deficiency, congenital thyroid defects, hypothalamus disorders, or the absence of certain enzymes that blocks the normal production of thyroid hormones.
In order to diagnose thyroid deficiency, your doctor will test the levels of different hormones (T3, T4, TSH) in your body, as well as iron levels in your blood. In hypothyroidism, levels of TSH are increased, while T3 and T4 are low. High levels of the TSH hormone are dangerous for the developing foetus. Risks include low birth weight, insufficient growth, or cognitive disorders. There is also a risk of miscarriage or premature labour for the pregnant woman has thyroid-related health issues.
How common is thyroid deficiency while pregnant?
Thyroid disorders are more common in younger women. It is estimated that about 3% of pregnant women develop hypothyroidism while pregnant. Women who have a history of thyroid dysfunctions are at higher risk during pregnancy and after giving birth. Untreated severe thyroid deficiency can also lead to coma in some cases. This is why it is imperative to test your thyroid hormone levels at least once during your pregnancy.
How to treat thyroid deficiency while pregnant?
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is usually treated with a constant dose of levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone treatment. Depending on your medical history, your doctor will adjust the dose accordingly. For women already on a hormone substitute treatment before getting pregnant, the dosage of hormones given will be adjusted.
During treatment, the doctor will constantly monitor you for any signs of hormone overdose. These include heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, headaches, tremors, chest pain, irritability or nervousness.