Thyroid Disease In Pregnancy
Many women become pregnant with pre-existing thyroid conditions (although some are not aware they had a thyroid problem). While others develop it during pregnancy but find it disappears again after childbirth. Some changes in thyroid function are normal during pregnancy, but in some women pregnancy triggers full-blown symptoms of thyroid disease. Thyroid disease is where the thyroid gland produces either too much hormones (hyperthyroidism), or too little (hypothyroidism). If the condition is not managed properly it can have serious health consequences for both mom and baby. Even if you don't develop thyroid problems in pregnancy, the danger is not over after delivery. About 4 to 7 percent of women go on to develop temporary thyroid disorders in the first few months of childbirth. This is called postpartum thyroiditis. It usually disappears within a year but for some, the condition becomes permanent. Most women are not routinely screened for thyroid problems in pregnancy, so it is worth informing yourself about the signs and symptoms.
If You Develop Thyroid Disease In Pregnancy
Have you been tired, moody and suffering from constipation lately? While these are all common pregnancy symptoms, they are also indications of thyroid disease.
A simple blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels (TSH and T4 hormones) will help doctors discover if there is a problem. Yet, while thyroid tests usually give an accurate result for non-pregnant women, they can be more difficult to interpret in pregnancy. This is because pregnancy hormones can throw the results off kilter. For this reason, a physical examination is important. Your doctor will look for signs of swelling of your thyroid gland, if there are any skin changes and he will listen to your heart rate. While some symptoms, such as irritability, fatigue and increased heart rate are also common symptoms of pregnancy, others are more closely associated with hyperthyroidism, specifically: weight gain, morning sickness and a severe type of nausea called hyperemesis gravidarum. The symptoms of hypothyroidism on the other hand, including dry skin and proneness to feeling the cold, are far less specific. If you have type 1 diabetes this raises your risk factors for hypothyroidism.
Uncontrolled thyroid disorders during pregnancy can cause:
There are many different causes of thyroid disease, the most common being:
There is no known way to prevent thyroid disease; however you can reduce your chances of developing it by preparing for pregnancy in advance. Ensure your body is fit and strong by following a healthy eating plan and taking daily exercise for at least 3 months before falling pregnant. When you become pregnant, talk to your pregnancy healthcare team about taking an iodine supplement. Iodine is an important mineral for maintaining a healthy thyroid, and most pregnant women need an additional 250 micrograms a day. Choosing iodized table salt and prenatal vitamins containing iodine will ensure this requirement is met.
If you have already been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder before falling pregnant, and are taking treatment for your condition, you will need to discuss your ongoing requirements with your doctor. Ideally you should have your condition under control before becoming pregnant. This will reduce your risk of complications like miscarriage and bleeding after delivery. Even if you previously had a thyroid disorder which has since cleared up, you need to be aware that it may return during pregnancy. Your doctor should screen you once a month for signs of a recurrence.
Treatment Of Pre-Existing Hypothyroidism
This is where a woman who previously had no signs of thyroid problems discovers that her thyroid becomes inflamed after childbirth. Initially she may develop symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as weight loss and feeling hot, but then it can swing the other way and she develops signs of hypothyroidism (weight gain and feeling cold). Usually the symptoms are mild and do not require treatment. It is more common in women with type 1 diabetes or a family history of thyroid problems. It typically occurs 4 to 8 months after childbirth and can last up to 18 months before the thyroid returns to normal. In 20 percent of cases, the women will remain permanently hypothyroid.
|Related Articles on Thyroid Disorders During Pregnancy
For more useful information, see the following:
• Prenatal Care Guide : Mom and baby welfare advice.
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