Hyperthyroidism During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Causes, Effects and Treatment

Thyroid dysfunction is common among young fertile women. Consequently, it is also prevalent in women during pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the two most commonly occurring thyroid disorders observed during pregnancy. In hypothyroidism there is lack of thyroid hormone in the body whereas hyperthyroidism occurs when more than required thyroid hormones are released into the blood stream due to high function of the thyroid gland. This leads to higher metabolism rate in the body.

If undetected or untreated, the condition will lead to health complications in both the mother and the baby in future. Medical intervention and proper treatment is important, as it goes a long way in preventing the deleterious health issues in the fetus and the pregnant woman herself.

How to detect

Hyperthyroidism in pregnant women can be detected through TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) blood test by a medical practitioner. The other symptoms that could probably indicate hyperthyroidism are:

  • hyper-thyroidIncreased sweating
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Mood swings
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged thyroid
  • Bulging of eyes
  • Aimless stare
  • Palpitations
  • Breathlessness
  • Weight loss
  • Brittle and thinning hair

Though the above mentioned symptoms indicate hyperthyroidism, it is not possible to make diagnosis based on them, as many other conditions during pregnancy can have similar symptoms.

Causes of hyperthyroidism

There are several causes that lead to hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. Graves’s disease, an autoimmune disorder and thyroiditis are two common causes of hyperthyroidism. The HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone produced during pregnancy is known to mildly stimulate the thyroid thus causing hyperthyroidism. In some pregnancies it could be pre-existing condition which has continued to affect the pregnancy after conception.

Family history of thyroid disease, increased level of iodine certain medications, infection near thyroid gland and enlarged or swollen thyroid are other conditions that lead to hyperthyroidism during pregnancy.

Effects on the mother and baby

Typically mild to moderate hyperthyroidism will not cause significant problems during pregnancy. With proper treatment, the pregnancy can progress uneventfully. Severe and uncontrolled hyperthyroidism can lead to hazardous complications in pregnancy which may result in premature birth or weak and low weight baby, birth defects, miscarriage, and worse, the death of baby inside the womb.

The pregnant woman who is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism will affect the baby leading to fetal and neonatal hyperthyroidism. It could also lead to a medical condition known as preeclampsia which causes high blood pressure and increased amount of protein in the urine, which could result in Eclampsia, a life threatening disease.

Treatment and management

Fortunately, women with hyperthyroidism need not suffer it ill effects, since it can be treated and managed successfully for normal progress of the pregnancy with modern medicines. Doctors decide on the treatment after thoroughly evaluating the size of thyroid gland, age, general health condition and gestation period of the pregnant woman.

The two common treatment procedures are administration of anti-thyroid medicines and surgery. The anti-thyroid medicine propylthiourcil is considered to be safe during pregnancy; moreover it is highly effective in decreasing thyroid hormone levels. When the medications are ineffective, doctors may recommend surgery to either whole or part of the thyroid gland.

Treatment of hyperthyroidism also carries risk for both the mother and baby, as some of the medicines are known to cause, itching, rashes, fever, joint pain and sore throat, therefore proper medical observation is necessary during the treatment.