Symptoms and causes
An underactive thyroid can be caused by autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease that creates antibodies to attack the thyroid. Other causes include iodine deficiency, thyroid tumor surgery, and prior hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism symptoms include fatigue, depression, weight gain, cold sensitivity, dry skin and hair, constipation, and irregular periods.
Avoiding risk to you and your baby
Treating hypothyroidism is critical to the health of the mother and the baby. The thyroid gland produces hormones that affect a person’s metabolism, which can affect various biological responses. Mothers with an untreated underactive thyroid can suffer from pre-eclampsia, anemia, weakness, and vaginal bleeding after delivery. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to low birth and neurological and development issues in the baby.
Doctors perform a physical exam and administer blood tests to measure thyroid hormone levels. Doctors are looking for high thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) and low T4 levels indicating hypothyroidism. Doctors may also order antibody tests to identify TPO antibodies to rule out Hashimoto’s disease.
Balanced hormone levels before and during pregnancy are conducive to a successful pregnancy. Before trying to conceive, couples should have a doctor check for abnormalities in thyroid levels. Doctors can prescribe a T4 thyroid hormone substitute.
Mothers with hypothyroidism that are taking specific medications can get pregnant successfully. When pregnant, the medication dose will increase up to 30% in the first 4-6 weeks of pregnancy to manage T4 levels. Thyroid testing should be performed regularly every 4-6 weeks until delivery.
Conception is possible for women with hypothyroidism with the help of the right treatment and medication. After birth, however, the mother will need to decrease the medication dose. Newborns are screened at birth for thyroid hormone abnormalities to ensure the hormone’s levels are in order, and the pregnancy was successful. For more information about having a healthy pregnancy, speak with a healthcare provider.
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