The thyroid is a butterfly-shape gland at the base of the neck. It produces hormones that manage your metabolism. Malfunctions of the thyroid are quite common in both pregnant and nonpregnant women.
Trouble occurs when your thyroid produces too many or too few thyroid hormones. Producing too little (hypothyroid) slows down your metabolism, leaving you feeling tired, sluggish, and sleepy. You may also have dry hair and skin or feel cold, depressed, constipated, or crampy. Producing too much (hyperthyroid) speeds up your metabolism, making you feel wound up and hyperactive. You may have heart palpitations, insomnia, breathlessness, heat intolerance, or increased bowel movements.
Because many of the symptoms of thyroid disease are interchangeable with the effects of pregnancy, diagnosis can be a challenge. However, it's important that thyroid disease in pregnancy be diagnosed because uncontrolled thyroid function can harm the fetus. Untreated hyperthyroidism may be associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery, severe preeclampsia, and miscarriage. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to preeclampsia, placental abruption, low birthweight, and possibly low IQ in the infant.
The good news is that thyroid disease is relatively easy to treat. Underactive thyroid disease is treated with thyroid hormone replacement pills. Overactive thyroid disease is treated with medication that slows the thyroid down.If you develop thyroid disease during pregnancy -- or if you had it before you conceived -- your doctor will do a blood test to measure the thyroid hormone levels every 6 to 8 weeks. Thyroid hormone levels tend to change in pregnancy, and medication will be adjusted as needed.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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