Endocrine disorders can affect us at every stage of life, and pregnancy is no exception. Hyperthyroidism is one endocrine condition that can follow a woman into pregnancy or can appear for the first time during pregnancy. Read on to learn three important facts about hyperthyroidism and pregnancy:
- Hyperthyroidism usually means Graves’ disease. Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is usually caused by Graves’ disease and occurs in 1 in every 500 pregnancies, according to the National Institute of Health. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone than it needs.Very rarely, hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is caused by a condition called hyperemesis gravidurum. This condition occurs when pregnancy hormones cause the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone, causing severe nausea and vomiting. This condition is temporary, regressing in the second half of pregnancy. An endocrinologist will need to work with your OB/GYN to make a proper diagnosis.
- Women may develop the symptoms of Graves’ disease for the first time during pregnancy. It’s an inconvenient time for such a diagnosis, but the hormonal changes of pregnancy often spur hyperthyroidism signs to appear for the first time and usually follow women after pregnancy. Women who have already been diagnosed with Graves’ disease will see it follow them into their pregnancy.Often times for these women, the symptoms of Graves’ disease will diminish in later pregnancy, but almost always return several weeks after giving birth. Regardless of if Graves’ disease existed before pregnancy or appeared during it, it is pivotal for you to have your condition closely monitored before and after birth.
- Hyperthyroidsim can and must be managed during pregnancy. There can be serious consequences for women who don’t manage their hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. There risks include:
- Congestive heart failure
- Thyroid Storm
- Low birth weight and premature birth
Fortunately, a skilled endocrinologist and your obstetrician can work together to help you effectively manage your hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. There are medications that are safe to take throughout pregnancy as well as breastfeeding, but the type and dosage depends on what stage you’re in, so be sure you meet with your endocrinologist to discuss your medications before you get pregnant.
If you have had hyperthyroidism at any point in time, it is important for you to alert your doctor at the beginning of your pregnancy. That’s because even if you’ve been successfully treated for the disease, the thyroid antibodies that cause hyperthyroidism can still be present in your bloodstream and can affect your baby after birth.
Newborns of women who suffer from untreated hypothyroidism may suffer from rapid heartbeat that can lead to heart failure, slow growth, irritability and breathing difficulties. These problems are usually adverted when women are taking an antithryoid medication, but a medical team should closely monitor all women with hyperthyroidism and their babies.