Almost every third person in India suffers from a thyroid disorder, as per a 2017 study. Although men are also at risk, thyroid disorders are more common in women and lead to other problems, such as hormonal imbalance and menstrual changes, to name a few. One very crucial aspect of this, about which there is a lack of awareness, is that if an expecting mother has a thyroid disorder, it can affect the baby in a huge way and can even lead to stillbirth. Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr Akanksha Tripathi, Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Paras Hospitals, Udaipur to know more about this. But before that, let’s get a clear picture of what thyroid disorders are.
What Are Thyroid Disorders?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland present in our neck, which regulates metabolism in our body. It produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are collectively called thyroid hormones (TH). When there is an imbalance of these hormones, it generally leads to two disorders:
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- In this, the body produces less amount of thyroid hormones
- It leads to slower metabolism and respiratory activity
- Since your metabolism slows down, there are chances you might gain weight despite poor appetite. Hypothyroidism can also lead to fatigue and constipation.
- This happens when there is a secretion of too much thyroid hormones in the body.
- This leads to metabolism that is too active.
- This results in weight loss despite a good appetite, increased heart rate, irritability, insomnia and diarrhea.
These are generally treated by drugs.
Thyroid Disorder In Mother: Effect On Baby
An imbalance of the thyroid hormones in an expecting mother can affect the baby in a major way. According to Dr Tripathi, this can lead to low birth weight. Because of the mother’s condition, the baby can also be born prematurity, he/she could have delayed neurodevelopment. The worst, it can also result in stillbirth. These happen due to various causes, such as iodine deficiency, autoimmune causes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a toxic goitre, etc.
What If Thyroid Disorder Occurs During Pregnancy?
If this happens, then it should be managed depending on the results of the thyroid function tests. Treatment includes taking thyroxine supplements and getting the levels of the hormones getting monitored every 3-4 weeks during pregnancy. In the case of hyperthyroidism, then drugs like PTU have to be started under an endocrinologist's guidance, Dr Tripathi said.
What Care Does The Expecting Mother Need If She Suffers From Thyroid Imbalance?
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Here is what Dr Tripathi recommends:
- First and foremost, patients already suffering from thyroid disorder should ideally plan pregnancy once their thyroid profile is within the normal range.
- They should also share their medical history with the gynecologist.
- Even normal antenatal patients should undergo thyroid tests as a part of routine screening, according to Dr Tripathi.
- The thyroid patients should take the prescribed supplements and there must be regular follow-ups.
- She also advises the involvement of an endocrinologist during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a tricky time for any woman. Hence, all necessary precautions must be taken so as to lead to no harm to the mother and the baby.