Pregnancy is a period of rapid changes and places great physiological stress on the mother and fetus. At times, these changes are also compounded by endocrine alterations. Thyroid disorder, an endocrine problem, can lead to serious consequences in the mother and child if undiagnosed.
1 in 10 people in India have some kind of thyroid disorder, 60% of which go undiagnosed. The risk for this is three times higher in women than in men. Thyroid problems affect around 12.5% Indian women. In an analysis based on data collected from 33 lakh adults in India it was shown that hypothyroidism- low level of thyroid hormones affect women of North India more, while hyperthyroidism- high level of thyroid hormones is more prevalent in women of South and West portions of India. Because of the influence of pregnancy hormones and change in demand due to the growing fetus, thyroid disorders are commonly seen in pregnancy. Hypothyroidism is more prevalent in pregnancy and can affect up to 13% women, hyperthyroidism on the other hand affects up to 3% pregnant women says Dr. Krishnaveni Nayini; MBBS, DGO, DFFB, FRCOG, CTT (UK); Senior Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecologist; Ankura Hospital for Women & Children
Adequate levels of thyroid hormones are needed for the development of fetal brain and nervous system. For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the developing fetus is completely dependent on mother’s thyroid and thus it becomes essential to have the hormonal levels in check. Since the symptoms of low or high thyroid levels overlap with the symptoms felt in pregnancy, all women are recommended to get their thyroid levels checked to know if they may be having an underlying thyroid problem. This is even more important since sub-clinical hypothyroidism is highly prevalent in India and such a problem can only be detected by a blood test. Measurement of TSH and free T3 and T4 levels helps your endocrinologist make a diagnosis.
Undetected and untreated thyroid problems can cause low IQ in the developing child along with problems in normal development. It can also lead to miscarriage, low birth weight, stillbirth, preeclampsia- dangerous rise of blood pressure in late pregnancy, or rarely congestive heart failure.
“Though thyroid problems can impose serious consequences, if detected early they need simple treatments which can adjust thyroid levels and prevent any possible complications in the mother and child,” says Dr Krishna Veni, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist from Ankura hospital for women and children.
All women are advised to eat healthy food rich in iodine, stay physically active, and get themselves checked regularly for thyroid problems to stay free of them. Women are also advised to avoid smoking and alcohol consumption which can suppress thyroid gland function.
Thyroid hormone supplements to make up for low hormone levels, or an antithyroid medicine when the levels of the hormone are high help keep thyroid levels in check. These medications can be safely prescribed during pregnancy as well. Once diagnosed frequent blood tests are required to monitor the level of hormones which in turn helps your endocrinologist adjust the dose of medicines. Women with any alteration in the levels of thyroid are required to stay in touch with their physician post-pregnancy as well to assure that they have healthy level of hormones.
“All women are advised to have a pre-pregnancy check-up, and follow up regularly with all their checks during pregnancy to stay free of any undetected problems,” adds Dr. Krishnaveni Nayini