Some women may suffer from thyroid problems, which may aggravate in pregnancy. This HerHaleness article is an attempt to enlighten you about these problems during and after pregnancy.
The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body. It is located in the neck. It controls the metabolism of the body, makes proteins, and also, controls the sensitivity of the body towards other hormones. However, the main function of this gland is to produce thyroid hormones, namely T3 and T4. A hormone called ‘calcitonin’ is also produced by this gland, which has an important role to play in calcium homeostasis. Most thyroid related problems are, either due to overactive thyroid gland, which causes hyperthyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland that leads to hypothyroidism.
Problems during Pregnancy
A number of women suffer from pregnancy induced thyroid problems. The most common problem, which can affect pregnant women is hypothyroidism. More often than not, this problem may go unnoticed during pregnancy. This can be attributed to the fact that women tend to gain weight and may experience tiredness when suffering from hypothyroidism, but they are also the symptoms that can commonly occur in pregnancy. In such a situation, when the symptoms are overlapping and confusing, it is the TSH level test that can be helpful to determine whether the pregnant woman is having thyroid problem or not.
The line of treatment is determined on the basis of the kind of problem and the trimester, the woman is in. More often than not, thyroid hormone medications are given to the patient. They are said to have no side effects neither on the mother nor on the baby, as long as the right type of hormone in right dosage has been prescribed. Women who have suffered from thyroid problems previously will have to ensure, that the same is intimated to their health care professional, as the hormone dosage will have to be altered in that case. If the problem is detected, then it is recommended, that regular blood tests are carried out for the TSH level, during the entire period of pregnancy and also later. This will point out whether the right amount of dosage is being administered to the patient or not.
Although hypothyroidism is very commonly seen in pregnant women, some may suffer from hyperthyroidism. The symptoms, like, feeling warm, rapid heartbeats, nervousness, trouble falling asleep, or nausea may be seen as pregnancy related issues, but they can also be indicators of hyperthyroidism. Iodine deficiency in pregnancy can also give rise to thyroid problems in pregnant women. Hyperthyroidism should be brought under control at the earliest, as it can cause miscarriages or birth defects.
There are a number of effective treatment options, which are now available to treat the condition. Normally, antithyroid medication is prescribed, which helps in cutting down the overproduction of hormones. During pregnancy, certain drugs may be given to the patient because these also have a positive effect on the thyroid levels of the baby. It is with regular tests, that the appropriate dosage is adjusted.
There might be some cases, wherein, women may not be able to take antithyroid drugs, due to allergy or some other side effects. In such a case, the only alternative, which can be used is surgical intervention that leads to the removal of entire thyroid gland. Many a time, radioactive iodine is said to be very beneficial in treating hyperthyroidism, but it is not recommended during pregnancy, as it can potentially damage the thyroid gland of the growing baby.
Problems after Pregnancy
According to research, about 5% women suffer from thyroid problems after pregnancy. It is the inflammation of the thyroid gland and it is called postpartum thyroiditis. More often than not, this condition is painless and may not cause gland enlargement. However, it certainly does interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. In most cases, there is overproduction of thyroid hormone leading to hyperthyroidism. This condition lasts for a few weeks after delivery. The symptoms may go unnoticed as they can be attributed to lack of sleep, nervousness, depression, etc., which are common postpartum symptoms. It is with the tests, that the condition can be diagnosed correctly. Normally, a lengthy process is not involved in the same.
Thyroid problems can affect women during and even after pregnancy. Therefore, if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is better to seek medical help, so that the problem can be brought under control while it is still in its nascent stage.