Hashimoto’s disease is among the most common autoimmune conditions that affect women in particular. In the following article, we’re going to understand why this disease is so closely linked to pregnancy, and what kind of treatment cures it.
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1. Factors that Aggravate Hypothyroidism during Pregnancy
Hashimoto disease appears the moment our immune system starts making antibodies which target thyroid cells and destroy them. Without these cells, the thyroid is unable to create essential hormones called T3 and T4 that are in charge of controlling the energy our body uses. This is how an underactive thyroid starts to slow down vital functions such as heart rate and brain function.
Pregnancy is a wonderful miracle of nature that asks for an increased number of resources from the mother, including a higher level of thyroid hormone production. This is a vital compound that helps the unborn baby develop the brain and nervous system. The thyroid happily complies with the requirements and will put in more efforts in its work. However, once the autoimmune disease starts developing, the thyroid will most likely fail to produce enough hormones to sustain both the mother and the growing fetus.
Anybody can easily overlook the symptoms of Hashimoto disease as they act the same as the effects of pregnancy, such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, memory problems, and dry skin. To avoid risking the presence of such a condition, any mother is advised to order tests to find out their exact state of health. The autoimmune disease can be diagnosed by blood tests, thyroid scan, and iodine intake.
2. Traditional Treatment
Hashimoto’s Disease is, fortunately, curable. The treatment consists of levothyroxine, which is a synthetic product made by man that acts exactly like a T4 thyroid hormone. You may hear of this treatment be called as thyroid replacement therapy which perfectly describes the healing process as a new surplus of hormones that resume the work of the damaged cells.
Pregnant women should consult an endocrinologist as soon as they find out about their condition. The specialists will have to prescribe the right dosage of levothyroxine. The factors that influence this can be age, weight, the stage of the underactive thyroid, and used medication that might interfere with the antithyroid pills. The dose has to be the ideal amount, as too much of levothyroxine will cause hyperthyroidism which can lead to bone loss and heart problems.
However, this treatment is not without certain risks. Studies that researched the required quantity of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) in pregnant women were inconclusive. This means that doctors are unsure on the right dosage to treat Hashimoto’s disease during pregnancy. As explained above, the production of thyroid hormones drastically increases, but nobody knows exactly to what extent.
Consequently, pregnant women should be aware of the challenges this condition puts them in and learn the latest information on Hashimoto’s disease so they can make informed decisions when talking to their doctor.
3. The Importance of Testing for Each Trimester
The right dosage of levothyroxine for women will not stay constant throughout the period of pregnancy. The production of thyroid hormones suffers great fluctuations when women expect a baby. This capricious change of nature is highly related to the connection between mother and fetus.
During the whole first trimester, the unborn child relies entirely on the mother’s thyroid hormones as it cannot produce them yet. The fetus needs these cells to develop the brain and nervous systems in week five. Thus, the mother releases more such compounds than ever, which will eventually travel through the placenta to reach the new growing organism. However, things begin to change in the second trimester.
This is the moment the baby’s thyroid developed long enough to start supplying such hormones by itself. The final period of pregnancy will require a greater supply so that the fetus will develop fully to use both its own and the mother’s resources. This means that once again, the mother’s need for synthetic thyroid hormones will increase to higher volumes.
This is why, during pregnancy, women have to take periodical tests for each trimester to measure the correct dosage of levothyroxine again. Doctors shouldn’t prescribe any changes in medication before they analyze the test results. Usually, women need in the first trimester 5.5 mU/L, in the second one a 3.5 unit, while the third one requires up to 4 mU/L dosage.
So, now that you know what your body goes through when it develops Hashimoto’s Disease during pregnancy, you can talk with your doctor about the exact strategies to improve both your health and the baby’s.
Sameer Ather is an MD, PhD and cardiologist based in Birmingham, Alabama. He owns the health platform called XpertDox. Sameer aims to help people live healthier lives, so his current research focuses Hashimoto’s Disease, a condition that affects people all over the world.