Krisha McCoy, MS
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 two types of thyroid disorders:
Hashimotos disease is the most common cause of
hypothyroidism. The immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes of hypothyroidism in pregnancy include:
Graves 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.
Factors that increase your chance of developing a thyroid disorder include:
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
Untreated hypothyroidism in pregnancy can:
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
Untreated hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is associated with:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor will test your thryoid hormone levels and other blood tests. Imaging of the thyroid may also be done. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in hormone disorders.
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 four weeks after your medication dose is changed.
There are no current guidelines to prevent thyroid disorders in pregnancy.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Thyroid Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Thyroid disease in pregnancy.
Practice Bulletin No. 37. August 2002 (reaffirmed 2013).
Graves’ disease. American Thyroid Association website. Available at:
http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Graves_brochure.pdf. Published 2012. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Hashimoto’s disease. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hashimotos-disease.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Pregnancy and thyroid disease. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service website. Avialable at:
http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/pregnancy. Updated March 23, 2013. Accessed June 10, 2013.
Torpy J, Lynm C, et al. Hyperthyroidism.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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