These days, thyroid problems are becoming more widespread as we are increasingly exposed to unhealthy lifestyles, environmental pollution and chronic stress that may disrupt our hormonal balance.
They can be difficult to identify, as the symptoms tend to be varied and appear differently for different people. But, it is a problem that needs to be addressed and it plays an important role in your life, your health and your ability to become pregnant.
The Role of the Thyroid
The thyroid is an important organ within the endocrine system that regulates metabolism and growth by releasing hormones into your bloodstream. Together with the pituitary gland, it orchestrates many of the body’s important functions, including preparing your body for pregnancy and maintaining healthy gestation for your baby.
As your body goes through each cycle, your ovaries and fallopian tubes rely on these hormones to synchronize their efforts so they can successfully work together to prepare and release an egg.
When an egg is fertilized, your ovaries must fulfill the very important task of releasing the hormones that alert your uterus that it is time to start making some drastic changes in preparation for pregnancy. It truly is a complex and miraculous event that your body is able to perform, but for all of this to work, your hormones must be sending the proper messages.
The Impact of Thyroid Disease on Pregnancy
Thyroid conditions can cause miscarriages if left untreated, particularly hypothyroid, a condition where your thyroid makes too little hormone. If your thyroid is struggling to function properly, you could be experiencing either a hyperactive or an underactive thyroid. There are even some diseases that cause inflammation of the thyroid and that can interfere with healthy regulation.
These conditions can cause many problems in your day-to-day life, even before you are pregnant. Women with thyroid dysfunction often report experiencing fatigue, depression, weight difficulties and memory problems. For women who are trying to conceive, irregular thyroid function can even mean difficulties trying to get pregnant.
Your endocrine system and reproductive system both heavily rely on the hormones that regulate their functions. If there is a disruption or imbalance in hormones, it can cause problems for both systems.
Types of Thyroid Problems that Affect Pregnancy and Treatment Options
Many women who develop hypothyroidism when they are pregnant experience mild or no symptoms. Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is underactive. If you have an undiagnosed thyroid condition prior to becoming pregnant, it may worsen over the course of your time being pregnant.
Some symptoms can even overlap with normal symptoms of being pregnant, so it can be difficult to identify. Some complications that are associated with hypothyroidism when you are pregnant are premature birth, postpartum hemorrhage, anemia, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and placenta abruption.
Regular treatment for hypothyroidism when you are pregnant includes monitoring your hormone levels so that they stay within a normal range for a pregnant woman. You may need to have more checkups to keep track of your thyroid hormone levels.
Typically, the treatment is the same for a pregnant woman as it is for a woman who isn’t pregnant. The levels may be adjusted, but similar or the same medications are considered safe while you are pregnant. Your doctor will check your hormone levels and make appropriate adjustments for your health, along with guidelines for when to take your medication in relation to your prenatal vitamins.
When hyperthyroidism is mild, it usually does not require treatment. But your doctor will need to monitor your levels to make sure that things do not progress or become more serious. Treatment options are more limited for hyperthyroidism when you are pregnant. Most medications used are considered unsafe for a fetus and can negatively affect the baby’s thyroid function. However, treatment with low-dose preparations (thyreostatics) is also possible during pregnancy.
Be sure to always consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns around your thyroid function and how it may affect your baby. Making sure to attend all of your prenatal appointments, following your doctor’s recommendations and pursuing a healthy lifestyle are all important ways to help ensure your baby’s health and safety.