Graves’ disease is a condition wherein the thyroid gland produces excess of throxine hormone. This disease can be a major health concern for many pregnant women. Hence, the article dwells on various causes, symptoms and treatment for Graves’ disease during pregnancy.
Graves’ disease is an auto immune dysfunction of the thyroid gland. It is a type of hyperthyroidism, a condition wherein excessive production of the hormone thyroxine by an overactive thyroid gland takes place. It is not common but can be highly risky and lead to complications during pregnancy. As we know, the onset of pregnancy brings along various hormonal imbalances in a woman’s body, the thyroid hormone levels normally rise during pregnancy to support the mother’s needs.
But these hormone levels may falsely elevate due to changes in the estrogen and progesterone levels which affect the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and result in conditions like Graves’ disease. Generally, the condition persist for a few weeks, at times beyond the first trimester and as the pregnancy progresses its severity decreases.
Generally, the symptoms of both pregnancy and Graves’ disease are similar to each other and so are difficult to distinguish. Some of the common symptoms include, mood swings, morning sickness, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and neck enlargement or goiter.
There are a few symptoms of Graves’ disease that can help in identifying the condition like no weight gain despite following a regular or increased pregnancy diet, tachycardia or high pulse rate (over 100), increased heart palpitation or irregular heart rates, hypertension, too much of nausea and vomiting, depression, tremor, weakness and exhaustion, diarrhea, pain in arm or leg muscles, double or blurred vision, restlessness and difficulty concentrating and baby’s increased heart rate, i.e., heart rate more than 160 beats per minutes. Although most of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women are similar to pregnancy symptoms, the two most prominent symptoms are increased heart rate and sudden weight loss.
As said before, in mild cases, the severity decrease as the pregnancy progresses. But uncontrolled or untreated hyperthyroidism during the second trimester can result in various complications for both the mother and the growing baby. A woman having Graves’ disease during pregnancy is at a high risk of suffering from heart diseases, high blood pressure, morning sickness, pre-eclampsia (a condition of hypertension and fluid retention), congestive heart failure and even a life-threatening condition called thyroid storm wherein the heart rate and blood pressure raise to uncontrollable levels.
All these factors can subsequently lead to miscarriage, intrauterine growth retardation, abortion, fetal growth retardation, premature labor and delivery, stillbirth, and even hyperthyroidism in the newborn baby.
As said before, the first signs of Graves’ disease are increased heart rate and weight loss, hence, once you notice these two symptoms, ascertain the condition and the cause behind this pregnancy complication by consulting your doctor who will conduct a complete physical exam and some blood tests. Although there are many treatments for hyperthyroidism, most of them can cause adverse effects on the developing fetus and can interfere with the normal procedure of delivery.
Hence, the main aim for the treatment of Graves’ disease in a pregnant woman is to cure hyperthyroidism while causing no harm to the mother and the baby. Propylthiouracil (PTU) is the most commonly used medication that is given to treat hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. Since the fetal thyroid is vulnerable to certain antithyroid medications, usually minimal dosage is given to the expecting mother. Surgery is another option, but only for those women who are allergic to medication or those who need high doses of medication to control the elevated thyroid levels.
Hence, in order to have a safe and healthy pregnancy, if you notice any of the above mentioned hyperthyroidism symptoms, do not delay. Consult your doctor immediately for early diagnosis and treatment as early treatment can keep you from facing various complications related to the disease as well as pregnancy.