Hypothyroidism In Pregnancy

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that develops when the thyroid gland makes little or no thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and how you gain or lose weight.

What causes hypothyroidism?

The following conditions may cause or increase your risk of hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease: A problem with the immune system may make your body attack your thyroid gland. Hashimoto's disease is the most common autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism.

  • Medicines: Certain medicines can cause hypothyroidism. Ask your caregiver if any of the medicines you take can cause hypothyroidism.

  • Treatments: Radiation therapy used to treat cancers of the head and neck can destroy your thyroid gland. Thyroid surgery also makes you more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroid problems: A past history of hypothyroidism or other thyroid problems may increase your chance of hypothyroidism during pregnancy. An enlarged or swollen thyroid, lumps caused by infections, or thyroid cancer can affect how your thyroid works.

  • Family history: Your risk is greater if a family member has hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease.

  • Low iodine levels: Iodine is an important mineral used by the thyroid gland to work correctly and make thyroid hormones. Low iodine levels during your pregnancy increases your child's risk of hypothyroidism.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism during pregnancy?

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism may start slowly, and you may not notice any changes.

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Sensitivity to cold

  • Constipation

  • Dry, flaky skin, or brittle fingernails

  • Thin hair

  • Muscle pain or weakness

  • Swollen thyroid gland

  • Depression or irritability

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will ask what medicines you take. He will ask about your medical history and if anyone in your family has hypothyroidism. You will have blood tests to check your thyroid hormone level.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Thyroid medicine will bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal. Ask your caregiver for more information on other medicines you may need.

What are the risks of hypothyroidism during pregnancy?

Pregnancy causes an increased need for thyroid hormone and iodine in the body. Low thyroid hormone levels may cause serious health problems. You may continue to gain weight. You may have body pains, and think, move, and talk slowly. You may also develop myxedema, which is a dangerous condition. Myxedema may cause swelling in your legs, ankles, lungs, or around your heart. You may have seizures, or go into a deep coma and die if you do not get medical care quickly. You may have increased blood pressure and have vomiting, blurring of vision, and very bad bleeding in your womb. Your child may be born with birth defects, have a low birth weight, or even die inside the womb. You may also give birth earlier than expected.

When should I contact my caregiver?

You should contact your caregiver if:

  • You are losing weight without trying.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.

  • You have pain, redness, and swelling in your muscles and joints.

  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.

  • You do not have any more thyroid medicine, or you stopped taking it without your caregiver's advice.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • You faint or have a seizure.

  • You feel your baby is restless and always kicking, or is very still and not moving at all.

  • You have sudden chest pains or trouble breathing, or swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.

  • You have diarrhea, tremors, or trouble sleeping.

  • Your water breaks, or you are bleeding from your vagina.

  • Your signs and symptoms return or become worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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