Thyroid Problems During Pregnancy: What's the Big Deal?

Thyroid problems in pregnancy can lead to certain complications during pregnancy and problems for your future baby.
Thyroid Problems During Pregnancy: What's the Big Deal?

Last update: 02 December, 2020

How many times have you heard about thyroid gland problems during pregnancy? But do you know what they are? Thyroid disorders are the second cause of complications in the endocrine system during pregnancy.

As this information published in the MSD Manual points out, this risk of complications increases both in women with hypothyroidism (the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone), and with hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone).

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck. It’s responsible for secreting hormones that influence both metabolism and growth. These hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

They’re also responsible for the proper functioning of the brain, heart and muscles. Interestingly, the development of pregnancy and your baby’s neurological system also depends on them.

Due to its multiple functions and its importance during pregnancy, we’ll now explain the possible problems that can appear in the thyroid gland during pregnancy.

What happens to the thyroid gland during pregnancy?

Disorders of this gland can be present from before pregnancy, however, it’s quite common for abnormalities to develop during the pregnancy period.

The functions of this gland, as we’ve already mentioned, are diverse and are closely linked to the development of the baby. First of all, the thyroid can influence fertility. This means that any affection in it can diminish your possibilities of getting pregnant.

This happens because a low level of thyroid hormones is related to the alteration of menstrual cycles, as pointed out by this study published in the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research.

In fact, numerous studies, such as this one published in the Endocrine Journal, relate the lack of menstruation (amenorrhea) to thyroid pathologies.

On the other hand, the T4 hormone is one of the protagonists in the neurological development of the fetus. This is one of the key aspects because, if your thyroid gland doesn’t work properly, your baby could have neurological problems that could affect its life.

During pregnancy, there’s a risk that the function of this gland will be altered. There are two main things that can happen:

  • The thyroid gland increases its activity: hyperthyroidism. It causes a slower growth of the fetus than normal. In addition, it can lead to the death of the future baby.
  • The thyroid gland becomes less active: hypothyroidism. The baby’s intellectual development isn’t carried out correctly. It can also cause miscarriages.
A medical test.

Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy

In this case, the gland is overactive and generates more thyroxine than normal. It’s not as frequent as hypothyroidism, which appears in approximately 0.2% of pregnancies.

The symptoms are usually nervousness and anxiety in the mother. In addition, it usually leads to hypertension and weight loss. However, the complications can be much more serious.

Hyperthyroidism causes the fetus to have a higher heart rate. In the end, the baby’s growth is stunted and doesn’t reach a healthy state. It can cause the baby to be born prematurely and even die in the womb. All this is evidenced in this study published in the Cuban Journal of Endocrinology.

Hypothyroidism in pregnancy

The thyroid gland in pregnancy increases, both in size and in hormone production. This requires an overexertion of the gland.

When the pregnant woman has a limited thyroid reserve or a deficit of iodine, hypothyroidism may occur because consuming iodine during pregnancy is necessary to synthesize the thyroid hormones. This is evidenced in this information from the Medical Annals of the ABC Medical Center Medical Association,

This occurs in almost 4% of pregnant women. The thyroid works slowly and doesn’t produce the number of hormones needed. The symptoms are often confused with other ailments, so you should keep an eye out for:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dryness of the skin and weakness of hair and nails
  • Pain in muscles and joints

The impact of hypothyroidism on the fetus can be serious. If undetected, the baby itself can be born with hypothyroidism, which can lead to problems in mental development.

A lady touching her thyroids.

You may be interested in: Should You Drink Tea During Pregnancy?

How to avoid thyroid problems in pregnancy

Fortunately, nowadays, there are numerous controls to detect possible complications during pregnancy. First of all, if you’re thinking of getting pregnant, you should probably go to your doctor first.

Your doctor will perform a blood test to check your thyroid function. If you don’t plan on visiting your medical professional,  you’ll need to undergo many different tests during your pregnancy. Your gynecologist will routinely check that your thyroid hormone level is stable.

About thyroid problems during pregnancy

As you can see, thyroid problems during pregnancy are one of the most frequent complications, along with gestational diabetes. The best thing you can do is to visit your doctor regularly and have all the relevant tests done.

In addition, these illnesses are easy to detect and, by doing so, you’ll avoid numerous complications that can put your pregnancy, and your baby’s health, at risk.

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