Maternal Hypothyroidism

Maternal hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism associated with pregnancy, may be either preexisting  or develop during pregnancy.  According to sites like this, between 0.3 to 10% of pregnant women are diagnosed with some type of hypothyroidism.  Furthermore, around 2.5% of normal pregnancies present with symptoms of overt hypothyroidism at some point.

Pregnancy is a time of great hormonal upheaval and one of the hormones that can be adversely affected are thyroid hormonesThyroid hormones and pregnancy/reproductive hormones (hormones that are directly involved in uterine activities before and during pregnancy) are closely connected.   Medical opinion differs over whether or not all pregnant women should be screened for thyroid problems as a matter of routine or whether such screening should be restricted to women in high risk groups.  There are also differences of opinion around whether detected subclinical hypothyroidism should be treated in pregnant women.  Many doctors will do so as a preventative because research is uncovering more links between even subclinical maternal hypothyroidism and neurological and cognitive defects in the fetus.  Nevertheless it remains a fact that the most serious cases of maternal hypothyroidism involve pregnant women who have more advanced or untreated hypothyroidism.

Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

What is Exophthalmos?

Hyperthyroidism from any cause can make the upper eyelids pull back, but Graves’ disease often causes one or both eyes to bulge out of their sockets. This condition, known as exophthalmos, can cause loss of eye muscle control, double vision, and (rarely) loss of vision. Most cases require no treatment, but some patients may need to see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for specialized treatment. This may include steroids, radiation, or surgery.

How is Hypothyroidism Treated?

The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone pills. The pills provide the body with the right amount of thyroid hormone when the gland is not able to produce enough by itself. While the symptoms of hypothyroidism are usually corrected within a few months, most patients need to take the pills for the rest of their lives.

The preferred thyroid hormone for treatment is levothyroxine (T4). You should use only the brand-name that your doctor prescribes, since generic brands may not be as reliable. Name brand levothyroxine pills include Levothroid®, Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, and Eltroxin®.

Patients sometimes take more pills than they should, trying to speed up the treatment or lose weight. However, this can lead to hyperthyroidism, a disease in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood, and to long-term complications, such as osteoporosis. You should take the pills as your doctor prescribes.

At different times in your life, you may need to take different amounts of thyroid hormones. Therefore, you should see your doctor once a year to make sure everything is all right.

® Levothroid is a registered trademark of Forest Pharmaceuticals.
® Synthroid is a registered trademark of Knoll Pharmaceuticals.
® Levoxyl is a registered trademark of Jones Medical Industries.
® Eltroxin is a registered trademark of Roberts Pharmaceuticals.

How Do Doctors Test For Thyroiditis?

As with any disease, it is important that you watch for the early warning signs of thyroiditis. However, only your doctor can tell for sure whether or not you have the disease. Your doctor may examine:

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Risks Of Maternal Hypothyroidism

Maternal hypothyroidism comes with many risks for both the child and the mother.  If not treated it significantly effects the development of the fetus with resulting neurological, cognitive and physical abnormalities after birth.   Some of the problems that untreated maternal hypothyroidism causes are pre-eclampsia, myopathy, anemia, abnormalities in the placenta, miscarriage, still birth, low birth weight, transient congenital hypothyroidism in the baby, postpartum hemorrhage and even congestive heart failure.

High Risk Groups For Maternal Hypothyroidism

Some groups of women are at higher risk of developing maternal hypothyroidism, notably those with:

  • A family history of thyroid problems
  • Goiter
  • Previous treatment history for hyperthyroidism

Treatment of maternal hypothyroidism is vitally important right from diagnosis.  As with most treatment for hypothyroidism, your program will depend on what’s causing your hypothyroidism, what stage your pregnancy is at, your previous medical history and so on.  Only by taking all these factors into consideration can the correct treatment be prescribed.  And once you’re on medications it’s important to continue taking them as directed as well as going for regular checkups to ensure your dosage is still adequate.  A healthy diet is also important, not just for supporting your thyroid but also to ensure you can supply your growing baby with all the nutrients it requires as well as your own requirements.

Donna Morgan

Donna Morgan

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