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Hypothyroidism affects about 5% of pregnancies: it requires special medical supervision, but as long as it is well treated, it does not pose any particular problems for the mother and the future baby.
How to explain pregnancy hypothyroidism?
- Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid (small gland located at the base of the neck) does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Some pregnant women already have hypothyroidism before pregnancy, often because they suffer from an autoimmune disease like thyroiditis Hashimoto (their thyroid is "attacked" by their own immune system).
- However, hypothyroidism can also appear during pregnancy: hormonal upheavals are often involved. By impacting the functioning of the thyroid gland, they can cause hyperthyroidism as well as hypothyroidism.
- Another possible cause of hypothyroidism of pregnancy: a deficiency of iodine, a trace element necessary for the synthesis of thyroid hormones.
- Finally, other factors may also promote the occurrence of hypothyroidism during pregnancy such as a history of thyroid disorders, for example, or the presence of an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes.
Hypothyroidism of pregnancy: what symptoms?
- During pregnancy, hypothyroidism can include constipation, cramps, accelerated weight gain, swollen legs, dry skin, fatigue, and slow heart rate (bradycardia). Sometimes a goiter can also appear, especially when the cause of hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency: a kind of bump more or less fat is formed at the base of the neck, because of the increase in volume of the thyroid .
- When in doubt, make an appointment with your doctor: a blood test is enough to detect the lack of thyroid hormones in the body.
How and why to treat hypothyroidism during pregnancy?
- The classic treatment for hypothyroidism during pregnancy is levothyroxine. The latter is a synthetic hormone, to correct the lack of thyroid hormones. Iodine supplementation may also be necessary depending on the case.
- If you are already taking levothyroxine before you become pregnant, your doctor may be able to modulate your treatment during your pregnancy.
- Good medical management of hypothyroidism helps prevent the risks associated with this thyroid disorder (eg premature delivery). The treatment is all the more important as the thyroid hormones play a big role in the development of the fetal nervous system.
Hypothyroidism: screening and prevention
- Hypothyroidism sometimes goes unnoticed: the ideal is to have a blood test as soon as you plan to get pregnant, to treat it as soon as possible if necessary.
- In addition, for every baby, congenital hypothyroidism is systematically detected a few days after birth. If the result is positive, baby will receive hormonal treatment for some time so that its intellectual development is normal.
- You should also know that you can reduce the risk of hypothyroidism by taking care of your iodine intake before and during your pregnancy: the doctor usually prescribes supplementation to cover all needs.