Thyroid Deficiencies During Pregnancy

March 2, 2010

Common Thyroid Problems During Pregnancy

A very common issue for women of childbearing age is thyroid disease, and consequently, it follows that thyroid disease can complicate a pregnancy. Nearly 3 percent of all pregnant women have some sort of thyroid dysfunction, the number rising or dropping depending upon the population and country. Thyroid disease during pregnancy can be troublesome for the mother and baby, causing long term difficulties for the children as they grow up.

The Thyroid Gland and Pregnancy

The thyroid is a small gland found in the neck, just below the Adam's apple and it is responsible for the production of thyroid hormone for the body. If the thyroid gland produces too much of the main thyroid hormone, called thyroxine, or T4, a woman can feel restless, emotionally hyper, hot and sweaty. Tremors, difficulty concentrating, and weight loss are also symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland. The condition is known as hyperthyroidism. If the thyroid does not produce enough hormone for the body, then the opposite effect is experienced. A woman will feel lethargic, tired, and will gain weight. Constipation and feeling cold are also symptoms of an underactive thyroid. This condition is known as hypothyroidism. It is this condition that is more prevalent in pregnancy.

Treatment Of Hypothyroidism

The treatment for hypothyroidism in pregnancy is the same as it would be if a woman was not pregnant. In most cases, a synthetic form of T4 is administered to replace what is missing in the production of the woman's thyroid gland. The dosage is monitored by the doctor and adjusted regularly to maintain an even level of T4 in the blood by checking the thyroid stimulating hormone level in the blood during pregnancy.

It is well known in medical circles that there is a direct link between hypothyroidism in mothers and delayed development in their children. It is particularly evident in geographical areas where there is iodine deficiency. Iodine is important in the production of thyroid hormone. Today, salt is enhanced with iodine in order to help ensure adequate measures of iodine in the diet. Another source of hypothyroidism is autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Avoiding Hypothyroidism In Pregnancy

To avoid hypothyroidism in pregnancy, a woman should be screened for thyroid malfunction if she is intending to become pregnant. Pregnant women who have familial history of thyroid disease, or have a goiter, high levels of thyroid antibodies in their blood, or symptoms of hypothyroidism themselves, should be screened for the disease. If a woman is borderline, or even within the low normal range for hypothroidism, and also has antibodies for thyroid malfunction, a low-dose therapy of thyroid hormone at the beginning of the pregnancy may circumvent further problems.

Women who are on thyroid replacement therapy before conception should be reviewed and monitored by their physician to ensure levels are maintained during the pregnancy. Usually, higher doses of the hormone are necessary during pregnancy and most doctors keep pregnant women at the high-normal end of thyroid function during pregnancy.

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