Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy: Tips For A Healthy Delivery
- Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri
- 3 Min Read
- Fact Checked
Pregnancy is an important phase in a woman’s life and also brings a lot of changes due to the pregnant state itself. Some of these are hormonal changes. It is a physiological stress to the mother’s body and for the same, compensatory mechanisms are developed in order to nurture the growing baby. Due to various hormones released during pregnancy and increased demand, the thyroid function is altered. Thyroid issues are considered to be the second most common endocrinological disorder next to diabetes. Thyroid hormones are released from the butterfly shaped gland present in the neck and it undergoes changes due to pregnancy. Any abnormality causing low thyroid hormone levels leads to hypothyroidism which can affect both mother and baby. This article will detail hypothyroidism during pregnancy, along with tips on how to have a healthy delivery.
What is the function of thyroid hormones in pregnancy
The thyroid gland releases two hormones and is dependent on the brain signals to synthesize these hormones. Thyroid hormones have multiple functions and affect almost every part of the body by affecting the basal metabolism. Hypothyroidism can lead to decreased fertility and also increases chances of miscarriage. In pregnancy, the mother has an increased risk of anemia, gestational hypertension, low birth weight, preeclampsia and preterm birth. During the postpartum phase, there are chances for increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
A growing fetus can not synthesize hormones at least till the second trimester, so the fetus is completely dependent on the mother’s thyroid hormones. Once inside the growing baby, thyroid hormones help in proper brain and other organ development.
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism
Thyroid hormones are involved in the way the body utilizes energy. Any decrease in thyroid hormone levels can lead to symptoms and in few patients though there is mild abnormality in thyroid function, signs of thyroid problems will not be evident. The common signs of Hypothyroidism are:
– Weight gain
– Muscle weakness
– Mood swings
– Dry skin and brittle nails
– Concentration difficulties
The most common cause of a thyroid disorder in pregnancy is the autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Iodine deficiency. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are often confused by the pregnancy symptoms as it can mimic them and are often missed.
Tips to have a healthy delivery
Women with a family history of thyroid disorders, previous miscarriages or abortions, autoimmune diseases like Type 1 Diabetes or Rheumatoid arthritis, previous radiation to neck or prior neck surgery are at risk of developing thyroid disorders. They should be screened for thyroid disease before a pregnancy is planned.
The American Thyroid Association recommends all women to be tested for thyroid once pregnancy is confirmed as 30% cases are missed due to non testing.
The thyroid hormone demand changes during each trimester so thyroid hormone testing should be done for every 4 weeks till 20 weeks for gestational age and thereafter at 24-28 weeks and 32-34 weeks.
There are also some diet and lifestyle changes that are to be included, such as:
– Avoiding excessive goitrogens like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli.
– Eating timely meals and including nuts and greens in the diet
– Exercise as recommended by the Gynecologist has to be done
Hormone replacement in the form of Levothyroxine is given as a treatment for Hypothyroidism. The medicine has to be taken on an empty stomach and eating or drinking any other liquids except water should be avoided for another 2 hrs. Pregnancy supplements like iron or calcium should be taken at a gap of 5-6 hours. Regular antenatal visits and also thyroid hormones checks will help in treating hypothyroidism during pregnancy and help in preventing complications. After birth, the baby is checked for hypothyroidism by a heel prick test. Post delivery, the mother has to follow up with thyroid hormone levels test at 4 weeks of delivery as the demands of thyroid hormone are reduced after birth.
If you are showing signs of hypothyroidism while pregnant, it’s important that you talk to a gynecologist so as to prevent any complications during birth. Careful testing and treatment can significantly help with the mother’s symptoms as well, while making her comfortable during her trimesters. Do not self medicate or self diagnose, as this could affect the mother’s and child’s health. Before making any changes in diet, lifestyle or medications, always speak to a professional.