Thyroid problems can not only affect you but also your baby. Because of that, it is extremely important to be tested before planning for pregnancy or getting tested right after you discover that you’re pregnant. Mothers should also be cautious after giving birth and thyroid problems can occur during or after pregnancy.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid produces too few hormones. The fetus usually relies on its mother for thyroid hormones for the first few months during pregnancy. As thyroid hormones play a vital role in brain development, deprivation of it from hypothyroidism can leave irreversible effects on the fetus.
Effects on pregnancy
If you have hypothyroidism, your baby is more likely to suffer from neurological or developmental problems such as having a lower IQ. Doctors will usually provide you with hormone replacement pills to boost the level of thyroid hormone in your blood.
Mothers suffering from chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (CLT) or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis tend to face a higher risk of pregnancy loss. What happens when you have CLT is that your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the thyroid gland.
Management of hypothyroidism
This is why all mothers should be verbally screened at the initial prenatal visit for any history of thyroid dysfunction or hormone medication. Laboratory screening of thyroid functions or antibodies should be considered for mothers at high risk of hypothyroidism.
Early detection and treatment of hypothyroidism can prevent the harmful effects on the fetus. Thyroid function testing should be performed regularly throughout your pregnancy if you’re on thyroid hormone prior to conception as the thyroid hormone dose is very likely needed to be increased.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produces too many hormones. Pregnancy does not worsen hyperthyroidism or complicates the treatment for women in this condition. Thyroid glands that are healthy functions normally during pregnancy. Very few mothers suffer from excessive thyroid function during their pregnancies.
Effects on pregnancy
Uncontrolled hyperthyroidism can have many effects on your pregnancy. If you have hyperthyroidism, it is more likely for you to develop preeclampsia (a kind of pregnancy-related high blood pressure), preterm birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or low birth weight for the baby.
You will need medication to reduce the amount of thyroid hormone your body is producing. A severe form of hyperthyroidism (thyroid storm) can complicate pregnancy. The high levels of hormone cause high fever, dehydration, diarrhoea, rapid and irregular heart rate, shock and death, if not treated.
Management of hyperthyroidism
The treatment for hyperthyroidism varies for each individual. The treatment aims to maintain normal levels of thyroid hormone. Treatment may include the process of frequent monitoring of thyroid levels throughout the pregnancy, the use of certain anti-thyroid drugs to lower the level of hormones in blood or surgery to remove a part of the thyroid.
However, you should not be given radioactive iodine, which is a common treatment, during pregnancy as it can damage your baby’s thyroid gland. The good thing is that most medications for thyroid problems are safe to consume during pregnancy.
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