The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that produces thyroid hormones, which affect heart rate and metabolism.
A thyroid disorder occurs when the thyroid makes too much or too little of certain thyroid hormones (1).
Hyperthyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid is overactive, or makes too much thyroid hormone. It can cause the body’s metabolism or heart rate to speed up.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include (2):
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
- Irregular heartbeat
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Slight tremor in the hands
- Weight loss or low weight gain for the average pregnancy
Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid is underactive, or does not make enough thyroid hormone. It can cause the body’s metabolism or heart rate to slow down (1).
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include (2):
- Weight gain beyond what is expected for an average pregnancy
- Extreme tiredness
- Muscle cramps
- Memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
How can hyperthyroidism affect my pregnancy?
Women can develop thyroid disorders during pregnancy or be affected by pre-existing thyroid problems during their pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is often caused by Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system makes antibodies that cause the thyroid to make too much of the thyroid hormone (1). It can also be linked to thyroid nodules (lumps in the thyroid) or hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness experienced by some women).
Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy has been linked to the following maternal issues (1):
- Placental abruption
- Heart failure
- Thyroid storm (a very severe condition that results from untreated hyperthyroidism and quickly-worsening symptoms)
Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy has been linked to the following fetal issues (1):
How can hypothyroidism affect my pregnancy?
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is often caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid (1).
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy has been linked to the following maternal issues (1):
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Placental abruption
- Gestational hypertension
- Heart failure
- Myxedema (severe hypothyroidism that is left untreated)
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy has been linked to the following fetal issues (1):
- Miscarriage or stillbirth
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Thyroid problems
- Problems with growth
- Problems with nervous system development
- Infantile myxedema
What are the risk factors for thyroid problems during pregnancy?
You are at increased risk of having thyroid problems during your pregnancy if you (1):
- Have a thyroid condition, nodules, or a goiter
- Have had a thyroid condition in the past
- Have type 1 diabetes
- Have had treatment for hyperthyroidism
- Have an autoimmune disorder
- Have had a baby with a thyroid condition
- Have a family history of autoimmune thyroid disease
Diagnosing thyroid issues during pregnancy
The pregnancy-related hormones estrogen and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) cause the levels of thyroid hormone in the body to increase during pregnancy (3). Women also have a slightly enlarged thyroid gland during pregnancy. Because of these circumstances, and the fact that symptoms of thyroid conditions very closely resemble common symptoms of pregnancy, thyroid issues during pregnancy are often missed.
Diagnosis of a thyroid condition requires a physical exam and a blood test (2). The blood test measures levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroid hormones T4, and thyroid hormones T3. If you think you may have a thyroid problem, tell your doctor, and they can give you a blood test.
Treatments for thyroid issues during pregnancy
If left untreated, thyroid conditions during pregnancy can result in severe pregnancy complications, such as premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Treating hyperthyroidism: Pregnant women with mild hyperthyroidism may not require treatment. In cases of severe hyperthyroidism, doctors may prescribe an antithyroid medication, such as propylthiouracil or methimazole. Always talk to your doctor about side effects and dosage guidelines of antithyroid medications, especially during pregnancy.
Treating hypothyroidism: Usually, treating hypothyroidism involves a medication that replaces the thyroid hormone, such as levothyroxine. Always talk to your doctor about side effects and dosage guidelines of any medication you take, especially during pregnancy.
If you are taking medications for a thyroid problem before pregnancy, talk to your doctor before you get pregnant or right when you know you are pregnant. They may want to adjust the dose of your medication or switch you to a different medication that is safer during pregnancy.
Thyroid issues and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
There are many complications which can lead to, or put a baby at higher risk of having birth asphyxia or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). These include preterm birth, placental abruption, and low birth weight. Because these conditions can result from thyroid issues, it’s important that your doctor diagnose and treat your thyroid condition right away.
ABC Law Centers is not run by medical professionals or associated with a medical facility. The above information should not be taken as medical advice. Always contact a medical professional when you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or any other concerning symptoms during pregnancy.
About ABC Law Centers
ABC Law Centers was established to focus exclusively on birth injury cases. A “birth injury” is any type of harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after birth. This includes issues such as oxygen deprivation, infection, and trauma. While some children with birth injuries make a complete recovery, others develop disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
If a birth injury/subsequent disability could have been prevented with proper care, then it constitutes medical malpractice. Settlements from birth injury cases can cover the costs of lifelong treatment, care, and other crucial resources.
If you believe you may have a birth injury case for your child, please contact us today to learn more. We are happy to talk to you free of any obligation or charge. In fact, clients pay nothing throughout the entire legal process unless we win.
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- Thyroid conditions during pregnancy. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/thyroid-conditions-during-pregnancy.aspx
- Aleppo, G. (n.d.). Thyroid Disease in Pregnancy: What to Know. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/thyroid-problems-pregnancy
- Thyroid Disease & Pregnancy. (2017, December 01). Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/pregnancy-thyroid-disease