Overactive thyroid during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the development of the fetus. Scroll down to find out more about the risks and treatment options of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is situated in the lower section of the neck, right under the voice box. The thyroid gland, just like the rest of the endocrine glands, secretes hormones into the bloodstream. The two hormones that are secreted by this gland are referred to as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
These hormones act on the cells and tissues of the body and help in regulating the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These also play a vital role in facilitating the overall growth and development of the body. The thyroid gland works in conjunction with pituitary gland, which in turn, secretes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). It is the thyroid-stimulating hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones.
If thyroid gland secretes lesser amounts of thyroid hormones, one is diagnosed with a thyroid disorder called hypothyroidism. On the other hand, when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces excessive amounts production of thyroid hormones, one is diagnosed with a condition called hyperthyroidism. In this article, we will look into the effects of an overactive thyroid during pregnancy.
Effects of an Overactive Thyroid in Pregnant Women
Autoimmune conditions, presence of thyroid nodules, excessive intake of iodine or eating disorders are some of the common causes of hyperthyroidism in women. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune thyroid disorder that may cause an overactive thyroid gland. If case of autoimmune diseases, the immune system of the affected person is unable to differentiate between the cells of the body and the foreign cells.
In case of a person suffering from Graves’ disease, an antibody called thyroid receptor antibody (TRAB), starts targeting the thyroid follicles. Rapid heartbeats, nervousness, intolerance to heat, irritability, tremors, menstrual problems, weight loss, profuse sweating or fatigue are some of the symptoms that would be experienced by .
Hyperthyroidism can also make it harder for women to get pregnant. This is the reason why thyroid levels must be monitored during the course of pregnancy. If this condition is not treated, this antibody may travel through the placenta to the fetus. Thus, there is the risk of the child being born with an overactive thyroid gland. Absence of medical treatment can also make a pregnant woman susceptible to miscarriage.
Premature labor and delivery, retardation of fetal growth, low birth weight, congenital malformations or pre-eclampsia are some of the complications that are associated with hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. Since hyperthyroidism can adversely affect the fetal development, women must never ignore the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Treatment of an Overactive Thyroid in Pregnant Women
Hyperthyroidism can be easily diagnosed with the help of diagnostic tests. Though extensive treatment may not be needed for mild forms of hyperthyroidism, blood tests must be conducted at frequent intervals to ensure that the disease is not progressing further. Certain treatment options that are recommended for the treatment of hyperthyroidism may not be considered to be safe during pregnancy. For instance, radioactive iodine, which is usually recommended for treating Graves’ disease, is not suggested for pregnant women.
This is due to the fact that damage to the thyroid gland of the fetus may result due to use of radioactive iodine. This increases the risk of the child having a sluggish thyroid gland at birth. The treatment of hyperthyroidism generally involves the use of antithyroid drugs, however, lower doses are recommended in order to lower the risk associated with the use of these drugs during pregnancy.
Since the immune system gets naturally suppressed during the course of pregnancy, the lower dose of an antithyroid drug called propylthiouracil, is usually sufficient for alleviating the symptoms caused by autoimmune Graves’ disease. However, there is a great need to monitor the thyroid levels during the course of pregnancy. Certain precautionary measures must also be followed to relieve the symptoms caused due to hyperthyroidism.
Pregnant women must refrain from an excessive intake of iodized salt, seafood, sea salt or processed foods that are rich in iodine. Having caffeinated drinks can also have an adverse effect on pregnancy, and must, therefore, be avoided. Application of ice packs and other forms of relaxation techniques can also help in easing hyperthyroidism symptoms such as nervousness, heat intolerance or palpitations.
A timely diagnosis and treatment of hyperthyroidism can help women cope better. Since hyperthyroidism can have a negative impact on the health of the fetus and mother, drug therapy and self-care measures must be followed to prevent complications that may arise due to an overactive thyroid during pregnancy.