Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy – Symptoms and Risk Factors

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Insufficient production of thyroid hormones affects the entire body.

The risk of developing hypothyroidism increases with age. Women with ages over 40 years are at the highest risk. In rare cases, hypothyroidism can occur in infants and young children. Women may develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy or after pregnancy.

Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy – Symptoms and Treatment

Hypothyroidism developed before pregnancy may aggravate during pregnancy. This is why it’s so important to diagnose thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism) in time and treat it before pregnancy. This is usually done by thyroid function tests (TSH, freeT4 and antibodies). These are necessary tests to take by every woman who plans a pregnancy in the near future, even if there are no symptoms of underactive thyroid.

Any pregnant woman who underwent thyroid disorders before pregnancy or who has any of the signs and symptoms that may evoke a thyroid disorder should be examined by their endocrinologist before getting pregnant.

Hypothyroidism occurs in pregnant women with a frequency of approximately 1 in 100, but laboratory abnormalities that may evoke a thyroid hypofunction are estimated by some doctors to 2.2%. 20% of patients who develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy will remain hypothyroid and after childbirth.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism in pregnancy

  • drowsiness, impaired concentration and memory, hoarse voice
  • intolerance to cold – the patient is hardly bear low temperatures
  • reducedappetite, weight gain, intestinal transit is slowed – a tendency to constipation, there may be increased transaminases (blood tests showing liver function)
  • skin is pale, dry and cold, thick, hard to heal wounds, edema (swelling) around the eyes, lack of  hair luster, falls slightly
  • muscle pain, cramps

The possible effects of thyroid hormone deficiency on reproductive function and pregnancy:

  • Untreated hypothyroidism may lead to menstrual disorders with heavy bleeding, irregular periods or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation for more than 6 months)
  • Decreased fertility
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Birth complications: premature birth, bleeding, etc.

The possible effects of thyroid hormone deficiency on the unborn child:

  • fetal death
  • low birth weight
  • birth defects
  • affecting of the normal development of the brain, with decreased intellectual capacities

Note that that these symptoms of hypothyroidism may be more difficult to diagnose and interpreted during pregnancy, so laboratory tests are essential, even if apparently there are no signs of underactive thyroid to no diagnose.

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