The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism. Pregnancy hormones can affect thyroid hormones. Untreated thyroid disorders in pregnancy increase the risk of pregnancy complications. It may cause harm to the developing fetus. There are 2 types of thyroid disorders:
—the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone
Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of
hypothyroidism. The immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes of hypothyroidism in pregnancy include:
Inadequate treatment of pre-existing hypothyroidism
Overtreatment of hyperthyroidism
Grave's disease is characterized by overactivity of the thyroid. It is the most common cause of
hyperthyroidism. Another cause of hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is very high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
However, cases of high hCG can resolve on their own.
To treat hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe medication
to replace the hormone your thyroid is not producing enough of.
Mild hyperthyroidism during pregnancy is often monitored closely without therapy. In some cases, you may need to take medication. If antithyroid medications do not work,
of your thyroid gland may be done. It is rarely recommended during pregnancy. Treatment with radioiodine destroys the thyroid gland. It is not done during pregnancy because of risk to the fetus.
Hormones associated with pregnancy can cause changes in thyroid hormone levels. Therefore, your medication needs may vary during pregnancy. Your doctor will likely check your blood levels of thyroid hormone every 6-8 weeks during pregnancy and 4 weeks after your medication dose is changed.
Hashimoto’s disease. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/hashimotos-disease/. Updated March 2014. Accessed April 7, 2017.
Pregnancy & thyroid disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Avialable at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/pregnancy-thyroid-disease. Updated March 2012. Accessed April 7, 2017.
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