A mother's responsibility begins in the womb, with her baby growing and developing inside her. However, sometimes, no matter how careful or healthy you try to be during pregnancy, unexpected things happen. This can be anything from having gestational diabetes, developing a fever, or having other complications like hyperthyroidism.
This realization can become scary for any mother. Imagine bearing responsibility for someone that's not even born yet, and being vulnerable to complications. But try not to fret. Worrying too much can also have a toll on your body and your baby. Just do your best to take good care of yourself. We hope this article helps inform you about hyperthyroidism and what you can do about it.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Before we explain what hyperthyroidism is, let us take a quick refresher on what the thyroid is. The thyroid is a gland that's responsible for the production of hormones that control important functions of the body. For pregnant women, it is crucial to have a healthy thyroid because it affects the baby's development of the brain and the nervous system.
Now that's clear, let's go to hyperthyroidism. This happens when there's an excess production of the thyroid hormone. Simply put, hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid. This condition is commonly caused by Grave's disease.
Hyperthyroidism vs. hypothyroidism
Aside from hyperthyroidism, there's also a condition called hypothyroidism. Both cases can affect pregnant women and can cause premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. That's why it's important to have these addressed as soon as possible.
To differentiate, if hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid, hypothyroidism is the opposite. It's characterized by an underactive thyroid. This is most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder.
Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism
How can you tell if you have hyperthyroidism? There are several symptoms you need to watch out for including the following:
- inability to sleep
- weight issues (weight loss or low weight gain during pregnancy)
- irregular heartbeat
- severe nausea
- loose stools
Read about the symptoms of thyroid troubles here.
Effects on your baby
Of course, we don't want to think the unthinkable but we need to be aware of how this condition can affect our precious little one. For one, it can impede the development of your baby. At the same time, hyperthyroidism may lead to low birth weight. It can also cause IQ deficits in childhood. As we've mentioned earlier, this condition puts you at risk for premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
Sadly, hyperthyroidism can persist or even happen for the first time after you've given birth. You may still have an overactive thyroid after you've delivered. Just when you think you can enjoy cuddles with your babies and just bask in this stage of your life with a newborn, postpartum hyperthyroidism can creep in.
For most women, this happens four to six weeks post-birth. The symptoms are the same--you get tremors, sleep issues, weight problems, heart palpitations, sweating, loose stools, and nausea. It's often that this condition is not diagnosed. Some chalk up these symptoms to just being tired or having erratic hormones after giving birth. But postpartum hyperthyroidism happens. It exists, and it can happen to any woman.
Read this woman's account of how postpartum hyperthyroidism affected her. We can all learn something from her experience.
Addressing this condition
With thyroid issues, physicians do a physical exam aside from looking into your medical history and symptoms. Then, they also check for tremors and will likely order laboratory tests to see your hormone levels.
To manage hyperthyroidism, it's best to recognize the symptoms early on so your medical team can provide you and your baby with appropriate care. Having regular thyroid tests will also allow your doctor to know what's going on in your body and monitor you. You'll most likely also get medications and recommendations for your diet.
To keep your thyroid healthy, it would be beneficial to eat iodine-rich foods as the thyroid uses iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Your little one also takes iodine from your diet while you are pregnant. Foods rich in iodine include meat, eggs, seafood, dairy, poultry, eggs, and iodised salt.
Ask your doctor if you need iodine tablets in addition to your prenatal vitamins, as taking too much iodine can also contribute to having thyroid problems.
Consult your doctor
If you do notice some symptoms of hyperthyroidism, the first person you will come to is your gynaecologist. It's her who will look further into it, and if she finds a cause for concern, she will refer you to a specialist. That's why it's important to have a good relationship and open communication with your gynaecologist. If you still don't have one, here's a list of the best gynaecologists in Singapore as reviewed by moms.
Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition that may affect pregnant women and those who have just given birth as well. This condition is also called overactive thyroid, when there is an excess production of the thyroid hormone. It is best to have this diagnosed right away because hyperthyroidism can cause premature births, miscarriages, and stillbirths. If you suspect you have it, talk to your doctor right away.