PREGNANCY & THYROID THINGS TO KNOW

What is a thyroid? 

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland present at the front of our neck, right below the voice box. It forms an integral part of the endocrine system that plays a vital role in producing hormones and regulating metabolism in our body. The thyroid gland produces two major hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The thyroid hormones are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. The hormones secreted by the thyroid gland control the body’s metabolism and many other vital bodily functions like brain development, breathing functions, body temperature, and cholesterol levels.

 

What is the role of thyroid hormone in pregnancy?

A woman must ensure good health when planning for a pregnancy, including thyroid hormone levels in check that are important during the gestation period. During pregnancy, estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are responsible for enhancing thyroid levels. These thyroid hormones play a vital role in the development of the brain and nervous system of the unborn and the pregnant mother. An increase in estrogen levels produces thyroid-binding globulin, a protein that helps thyroid hormone travel in the blood. In the first trimester, the mother’s thyroid hormones travel through the placenta in the growing fetus. In the 10-12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby is completely dependent on the mother for its thyroid hormone needs, the most crucial time of development. According to The World Health Organization, iodine intake of 200 micrograms/day during pregnancy to maintain adequate thyroid hormone production. 

What are the types of thyroid disorders during pregnancy and their effects?

When an overactive thyroid gland produces thyroxine in large quantities, the condition is known as hyperthyroidism whereas an underactive thyroid gland causes hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism:

A low level of thyroid hormones in the blood causes this condition, where the thyroid gland functions inadequately or is unable to produce enough hormones. This may cause sluggishness, slow pregnancy, or difficulty in conception. A common cause of Hypothyroidism is sometimes also due to heavy medication or treatment for the overactive thyroid gland. Women who have a family history of hypothyroidism or have a past diagnosis of this condition are at risk of developing this condition during pregnancy.

The most common ones for thyroid disorders during pregnancy include,

  1. Weight gain and fatigue
  2. Swollen face
  3. Skin tightening or stretching
  4. Sensitivity towards cold temperature
  5. Muscle cramps
  6. Slow pulse concerns
  7. Abdominal discomfort
  8. Anxiety and confusion

Effect Of Hypothyroidism On Pregnant Lady And Baby:

Hypothyroidism may cause serious health problems for the pregnant mother. If not diagnosed or treated on time, these thyroid and pregnancy complications can cause pre-eclampsia, placental abnormalities, miscarriage, and in rare cases, congestive heart failure and postpartum haemorrhage or bleeding. The severe hypothyroidism issue may have critical effects on the fetus. The growth and development of the baby’s brain and nervous system depend on the perfect functioning of the thyroid gland. If not treated promptly, severe neurological, cognitive, and other developmental abnormalities may arise in the baby.

Hyperthyroidism:

Hyperthyroidism is a disorder where the gland secretes more thyroxine than is required for the body and metabolism. This speeds up the metabolism rate of the body. This condition causes Grave’s disease in expecting mothers-to-be or during pregnancy. The immune system attacks its cells and organs instead of protecting them, leading to too many thyroid hormone-making antibodies than required. Another cause of hyperthyroidism is Toxic Adenomas, where nodules that grow in the thyroid gland begin secreting hormones. This disturbs the body’s chemical balance. Another uncommon cause may be due to higher secretion of pregnancy hormone levels, especially human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

The most common Hyperthyroidism symptoms during pregnancy include:

  1. Drastic weight loss
  2. Heavy eating and metabolism rate
  3. Trouble in sleeping patterns
  4. Rapid heartbeat
  5. Anxiety
  6. Irritated bowel and abnormal bowel movements

 

Hyperthyroidism Effect On Pregnant Lady And Baby:

Uncontrolled Hyperthyroidism leads to severe complications and concerns such as fetal loss, the baby’s low birth weight, and the fetus’s abnormal development during pregnancy. Ill-treatment of Hyperthyroidism may lead to pre-eclampsia and early labor. High levels of hormones are abrupt and result in premature babies, stillbirths, faster heartbeat rates, malformations, and congenital disabilities.

How can thyroid be treated during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, hypothyroidism is treated by starting on thyroxine, which is beneficial for the mother and the child. Treatment is not required for mild hyperthyroidism but in the case of hyperemesis gravidarum, medicines to control vomiting and dehydration are prescribed. In case of a severe thyroid disorder, the doctor prescribes propylthiouracil (PTU), in low doses during the first trimester. Doctors prescribe medication that is a functionally adequate substitute for thyroid hormone to make up for hypothyroidism.

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