Are you someone who is expecting a baby soon? Well, that's great! But did you know that pregnancy is one of the most common triggers for thyroid disease? Don’t panic! We are here to spread awareness but not scare you.
As you know, thyroid hormone regulates our body functions such as temperature, metabolism, etc. But when your thyroid hormones secrete too little or a low level of hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidism. Similarly, if your body produces more hormones, it is known as hyperthyroidism
Low levels of thyroid hormones can make you sleepy and tired all the time. But, the symptoms are pretty similar to pregnancy symptoms. So, hypothyroidism goes undetected in most cases.
Generally, most people have immune dysfunction and get diagnosed with Hashimoto thyroiditis. So, it's important for you to take notice of your symptoms. Remember, prevention is better than cure!
And that’s the reason we are here to help you out with thyroid and pregnancy-related information, how hypothyroidism in pregnancy can affect your baby, and a lot more.
Let’s dig in!
Symptoms of pregnancy induced hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism in pregnant women are similar to those with hypothyroidism. While most pregnant women do not show any signs, some of the common symptoms include
- extreme tiredness or fatigue
- trouble dealing with cold
- muscle cramps
- problems with memory or concentration
However, keep in mind that hypothyroidism and pregnancy show similar symptoms, making it hard for people to differentiate between the two. And as a result, it never gets cured.
What is the role of thyroid hormones in pregnancy?
That's the most common question the thyroid doctors of Jeevam health get asked. Are you one of them too? Well. Besides, during the first three months of pregnancy (first trimester), your baby solely depends on your thyroid hormone supply through the placenta.
Even though later, after 12 weeks, your baby's thyroid starts working but it does not produce enough and relies partly on you until 18-20 weeks. As a result, your normal thyroid functioning is triggered.
Doctors recommend thyroid replacement drugs to bring it back to normal but unfortunately, they need to keep taking the medications post-pregnancy too. Such incidents clearly state that the medications are not working.
How does pregnancy trigger thyroid problems?
Hypothyroidism in pregnancy can occur for various reasons– one of the most common being Hashimoto’s disease which occurs in 2 to 3 out of every 100 pregnancies.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing inflammation and damage that make it less able to make thyroid hormones. There are several other causes of hypothyroidism, such as the leaky gut, unaddressed infections, and more.
According to Jeevam health, pregnancy is the most common trigger for thyroid problems. During pregnancy, most of the patients face immune dysfunction which causes Hashimoto's thyroiditis. And the symptoms still persist even after pregnancy if proper treatment is not taken.
Suffice to say, you must do a complete thyroid panel test – Free T3, Free T4, and antibody test to check if your thyroid levels are normal or not. By doing this, you can reduce the damage and optimize your treatment for your own good.
If untreated, severe hypothyroidism during pregnancy can cause hair fall, undesirable thyroid weight gain, and severe complications.
Challenges in pregnancy due to thyroid
If the thyroid problems go untreated, it can cause miscarriage and disrupt your baby's development. Low thyroid hormones can also make it hard for you to conceive. Also, if your thyroid hormones are high, ie, if you have hyperthyroidism in pregnancy, you may witness severe nausea and vomiting and can cause complications like hyperemesis gravidarum.
Low TSH in pregnancy can cause the following –
- preeclampsia—a dangerous rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy
- low birth weight
- congestive heart failure, rarely
So. It's essential to get yourself tested once in a while and consult a functional doctor/ thyroid expert.
Why is it hard to diagnose thyroid problems during pregnancy?
According to a survey conducted by Jeevam health, 78% of the cases in pregnancy go undetected. People assume the tiredness and fatigue to be expected. Also, physical examinations hardly diagnose hormone levels. Also, the thyroid and other hormones are higher during pregnancy, making it hard for doctors to diagnose.
Besides the hormones—human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen—secreted higher thyroid hormone levels in your blood. The thyroid enlarges slightly in healthy women during pregnancy, but usually not enough for a health care professional to feel during a physical exam.
That's why getting routine tests is a must. Besides, if your thyroid levels are normal, but if you still face the symptoms, reaching out to a functional doctor is essential.
Another type of thyroid disease, postpartum thyroiditis, can occur after your baby is born.
The functional approach to treating hypothyroidism during pregnancy
If you have thyroid disease in pregnancy, it's most likely that your doctor will prescribe you thyroid replacement drugs. Such drugs cross the placenta and reach your baby too! And that is the reason why doctors offer low doses.
But whatever the quantities are, your baby gets affected. Research states that if you are on antithyroid drugs, it's most likely that your baby might be born with abnormalities.
Suffice to say, the moment you stop taking your hypothyroidism/ hyperthyroidism medications, your thyroid hormone levels will go back to low. And taking consistent drugs such as thyroxine in pregnancy without addressing the root cause can be harmful to you and your baby.
And that is where the role of functional medicine comes into play. Rather than focusing on treating the symptoms, functional medicine doctors will find the root cause of the problem.
Let's understand the functional approach with an example. Suppose your phone stopped working because of a bad battery. And you are highly conscious and worried about it. So, you start charging it– for hours. You constantly keep it on charging, and once you unplug it, your phone immediately stops working. So, what is the solution? To keep charging or address the problem and work on it?
That's what functional medicine does to you, and it finds your root problem. According to Jeevam health experts, thyroid problems can occur for various reasons–Hashimoto's thyroiditis, gut inflammation, etc. So, you need to share your medical history with functional medicine experts to understand your health better. Besides nutrition plays a vital role in treating the thyroid during pregnancy. When you're pregnant, your nutritional requirement changes (increases) as compared to a normal person urging you to consume nutritious food. While there are foods that can promote healthy delivery and good health, certain food can trigger your hormone levels. So eating a nutritious meal is very important.
Suffice to say, there is tremendous weight gain– thyroid weight gain being one- can affect you. So, eating right becomes crucial to maintaining healthy body weight. It would be best if you reach out to a nutritionist/ functional medicine expert and get yourself a personalized meal plan for pregnancy.
What is Postpartum thyroiditis?
Postpartum thyroiditis is a temporary inflammatory thyroid disorder that occurs in 5-10% of pregnant women with thyroid antibodies. It usually shows up in the mother within six to twelve months after the birth. Your thyroid may be a little swollen in such cases, but it is seldom painful.
It usually begins with hyperthyroidism and later resolves into hypothyroidism. One reason why Postpartum thyroiditis occurs is that the root cause of the disease remains untreated. Suppose you have had postpartum thyroiditis, but your condition is in control initially. In that case, we at Jeevam Health recommended that you have your thyroid function checked before you try to conceive again and at the start of your subsequent pregnancy to ensure that you have not developed hypothyroidism.
There is an up to 50% risk that you develop a recurrence of postpartum thyroiditis in subsequent pregnancies. Women with type 1 Diabetes Mellitus are at higher risk of this condition.
Hypothyroidism, when untreated, can be harmful to your baby. But proper treatment and optimal nutrition and exercise can reduce the risk and reverse the damage. Jeevam health doctors believe and have proved that you can cure hypothyroidism permanently if you follow a functional approach. So, if you are tired of gulping down pills for hypothyroidism, it's high time you try out functional medicine.