Thyroid conditions can be easily managed in day-to-day life with the right medications and hormone therapy. However, the risks of low or high thyroid hormone levels become much more apparent during pregnancy.
The thyroid is an organ located in the front of the neck that releases hormones to regulate the metabolism (the way the body uses energy), heart and nervous system, weight, body temperature, and many other processes in the body. The thyroid diseases like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are relatively common in pregnancy and important to treat.
During pregnancy, if one has pre-existing hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, they may require more medical attention to control these conditions, especially in the first trimester. Occasionally, pregnancy may cause symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism in the first trimester. If one experiences palpitations, weight loss, and persistent vomiting, one should contact their doctor immediately.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism during Pregnancy
Hyperthyroidism – Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may mimic those of normal pregnancy, such as an increased heart rate, sensitivity to hot temperatures, fatigue, nervousness, severe nausea or vomiting, slight tremor, trouble sleeping, and weight loss or low weight gain for a typical pregnancy.
Hypothyroidism – Symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as extreme tiredness and weight gain, may easily be confused with normal symptoms of pregnancy. Other symptoms include constipation, difficulty in concentrating or memory problems, sensitivity to cold temperatures, and muscle cramps.
Causes of Thyroid Disease during Pregnancy
The most common cause of maternal hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is the autoimmune disorder Grave’s disease. In this disorder, the body makes an antibody (a protein produced by the body when it thinks a virus or bacteria has invaded) called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) that causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In this condition, the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland cells, leaving the thyroid without enough cells and enzymes to make enough thyroid hormone.
Risks of Thyroid during Pregnancy
Thyroid hormone is critical for the normal development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. The thyroid enlarges slightly in healthy women during pregnancy, but not enough to be detected by a physical exam. Untreated thyroid diseases during pregnancy may lead to premature birth, preeclampsia (a severe increase in blood pressure), miscarriage, and low birth weight among other problems.
Diagnosis and Test of Thyroid Disease during Pregnancy
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism during pregnancy are diagnosed based on symptoms, physical examination, and blood tests to measure levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone. It is important for all would–be mothers to undergo a thyroid test to avoid the risk during pregnancy.