Are you worried about how hypothyroidism and pregnancy interact? Do you have thyroid problems and you seek to get pregnant, but are scared of how this condition can affect you and your baby?
Well, this is for you.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are everywhere. They are chemical messengers of our body that we can never do without. And glands, precisely the endocrine system glands, are where hormones are produced.
Hormones take information and signals from one part of the body to another. Hence, hormones are the ones that trigger the changes and make things happen.
For example, there are hunger hormones that pass on message from the gut to the brain about energy needs of the body. Then there are other hormones such as sex hormones that take part in reproductive functions of the body.
There is insulin that directs how our body makes use of the food that we are taking in.
And there are Vitamin D (yes, it is a hormone) and Thyroid hormones that virtually direct functioning of each and every cell of our body!
Definitely, in pregnancy there are myriads of hormones that strive to ensure things go well.
The Thyroid Gland and Thyroid Hormone
The thyroid gland is a small butter-fly shaped gland that is located at the base of your neck, towards the front.
Isn’t it interesting that is just 2-inch long and weighing less than 1 ounce is so important to your well-being? You see, this is where the thyroid hormone is produced.
This gland actually produces two thyroid hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3) and
T3 is the active form and T4 is inactive. That means, our body can utilise thyroid hormone only when it is presented in the form of T3.
Also, majority of the T4 is eventually converted to T3 when needed by different body parts. Hence, the balance is maintained.
Among others, the thyroid hormone has the main responsibility of controlling metabolism-that is to say, how your body breaks down or builds up materials for its own use.
Sometimes there are problems: Thyroid disorders
Unfortunately, problems can sometimes arise with these hormones, usually stemming from the thryoid gland itself. There could be hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones. On the other hand, in the condition known as hypothyroidism, there is too little of the hormones produced.
Each condition has it’s own unique symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Thyroid Hormone and Metabolism
Remember that one of the major functions of the thyroid hormone is to regulate metabolism. Therefore, the problems that arise from thyroid disorders stem from improper metabolism.
Metabolism could become too fast (as in hyperthyroidism) or too slow(as in hypothyroidism). Some of the problems, and how they link up with metabolism are mentioned in the section “Symptoms of Hypothyroidism” below.
A research published in the International Journal of Ayurveda and Pharma Research states that 42 million people in India alone are suffering from thyroid disorders.
Out of those, a whooping 5.4% suffer from hypothyroidism. So, you can see that hypothyroidism is the most common form of thyroid disorder, and it is fairly common.
It might also interest you to know that females are more prone to this condition than males. For every six females with hypothyroidism, there is only one male suffering the same fate. Pregnant women are even at more risk.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism symptoms can be mild to severe. Since your metabolism is affected, the following symptoms may be noticed:
- Fatigue – One consequence of reduced metabolism is that you have less energy produced.
- Weight gain – If nutrients are not effectively metabolized, then can store up as fat, causing weight gain.
- Feeling cold when others are hot – metabolic activities generate heat and help you keep warm. If these activities are reduced however, then you have less heat.
- Joint and muscle pain
- Puffiness in the face
- Dry and thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Decreased sweating
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Impaired fertility
- Reduced heart rate
What are the Causes of Hypothyroidism?
The following can cause a person’s thyroid gland to produce less thyroid hormones than in needed:
- Hashimoto’s disease: This is an auto-immune disease. The immune system is supposed to protect you from disease. However, sometimes, it gets so overzealous, or confused, that it begins attack the body itself. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The gland gets damaged, and it produces less thyroid hormones.
- Inflammation of the thyroid: this is called thyroiditis. Here, thyroid hormones leaks out of the gland. This will temporarily raise thyroid hormone levels, causing hyperthyroidism. Eventually, due to continuous leakage, hypothyroidism results.
- Congenital hypothyroidism: This is present at birth, and it may be fatal in a new born baby. This is why it is important to screen new born babies.
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland also causes hypothyroidism
- Radiation treatment of the thyroid: Radiation therapy can be given for some conditions like cancer. The radiation can damage the thyroid gland and cause problems also.
- Medications: Some medications can interfere with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is already a pretty complicated process. A lot of things could go wrong, from conception to gestation (i.e. the pregnancy period) to delivery.
Particularly if there is a hormonal disruption, things could get more scary. Hormones are known to work in tandem. So notoriously, if one hormone is disturbed, it can disturb others hormones also.
And here is pregnancy, heavily under the influence of hormones.
The bottom line here is this: if there is a problem with one of your hormones during pregnancy, it could seriously affect pregnancy by disrupting the other hormones that are involved.
So, let’s talk about how hypothyroidism and pregnancy interact in stages:
- Before pregnancy – how hypothyroidism affects fertility
- During pregnancy – how hypothyroidism affects you and your baby
- After pregnancy – your thyroid health after pregnancy
Hypothyroidism and Getting Pregnant
It is important to consider fertility when talking about hypothyroidism and pregnancy. After all, there can be no pregnancy if you are not fertile. And of course, hypothyroidism affects fertility.
But how? Low levels of the thyroid hormone affects menstruation and ovulation in many different ways. Remember that an hormonal disturbance causes further disturbances in other hormones? Good. So, the hormones controlling your menstrual cycle are also affected.
It can Prevent Ovulation
Here is one thing that happens. When you have low levels of T4 (thyroxine), you have higher levels of TRH (thyroid-releasing hormone). TRH is released in a bid to get your thyroid levels back up.
Now, either of these – i.e. low thyroxine or high TRH- can cause your prolactin levels to go high.
High levels of prolactin can prevent ovulation. This means that, during your menstrual cycle, you do not release an egg at all. If no egg is released, there is nothing to fertilize. Here you can learn about ovulation signs and symptoms.
Implantation Does Not Occur
Implantation is the process by which a fertilized egg is attached in the womb. It is anchored there as it goes through its development process.
However, another effect of hypothyroidism on pregnancy is that hypothyroidism shortens the second half of the mentsrual cycle. Consequently, the egg doesn’t have enough time to implant.
Other effects of low thyroid levels is that it can cause low basal temperature of the body(since metabolism is very low). This can also hinder fertility and hamper pregnancy. Hypothyroidism also cause irregular or heavy menstruation.
Before getting pregnant, especially if you have had a history of thyroid disorders, you should consult your doctor. Get you thyroid levels checked, regulated and keep it monitored.
Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy
So, what happens during pregnancy? You are affected, and your baby is also affected. Throxine is very important in the development of the fetus.
It can start during pregnancy
It might interest you to know that thyroid disorders can develop during pregnancy. Even if you’ve not had a history, it’s likely to experience hypothyroidism during pregnancy. In this case, it is mostly due to Hashimoto’s disease. This is why it is important to have regularly check-ups during pregnancy. It is a very delicate state.
The symptoms that show up are typical of hypothyroidism in non-pregnant people, including fatigue, muslce cramps, sensitivity to cold, etc.
You need enough thyroxine for you and your baby
Recall once again that the thyroid hormone is important for regulating metabolism. Even in your developing baby, the tyroxine controls a lot of things. This is why you need enough thyroxine for yourself and your developing baby, especially in the first three months.
If you don’t get enough thyroxine, it could have serious effects on yourself and the baby.
How hypothyroidism affects you?
- Anemia – you have low red blood cell count and so, not enough oxygen to go round. This can cause you to feel fatigued, brain fog, etc.
- Increased blood pressure
How hypothyroidism affects your baby?
- Premature birth – you baby could come out prematurely
- Low birth weight – you give birth to an underweight baby. This is even more likely if it is a premature birth
- Brain development is disturbed
- Still birth – this is most serious. The baby doesn’t survive the pregnancy period and so doesn’t come out alive.
Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy – After you Deliver the Baby
The story of hypothyroidism and pregnancy is not over even now. Before, during and after pregnancy, you must still keep your thyroid hormone levels in check.
‘Postpartum’ means occurring immediately after birth. Therefore, we can say that postpartum thyroiditis is a type of thyroiditis that occurs after a woman has given birth. It is usually due to Hashimoto’s disease.
According to the US National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information System, postpartum thyroiditis occurs in 4-9% of women in the first year after giving birth.
The symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed because they are confused for ‘postpartum blues.’ If symptoms don’t go away within a few months, such woman should contact her doctor.
Also, as is typical of thyroiditis, the symptoms might first seem like hyperthyroidism. This is because the thyroid hormone levels rise before falling again.
You should keep in mind that your baby still depends on you for most of its nutrients. All this nutrient is to be gotten from your breast milk.
Therefore, you should still take enough thyroxine for yourself and your baby. This is why you need to eat healthy too. Also, mind the medications you take. Let your doctor know that you are breastfeeding, so you can get prescriptions accordingly.
Here you can learn about Ayurvedic herbs that support lactation and breastfeeding.
How to prevent Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy Complications?
You should do all you can to minimize hypothyroidism and pregnancy risks. Thankfully, it is not a helpless situation.
- Let your doctor know if you plan to get pregnant.
A paper in the Journal of Gynaecology, Obstetrics and Biology of Reproduction offers some insights also, into the prevention of pregnancy complications in thyroid disorders:
- Taking systematic steps to prevent iodine disorders. Iodine is a very important mineral in the functioning of the thyroid gland. In fact, it is a major component of the thyroid hormones. Therefore, iodine deficiency will certainly lead to hypothyroidism.
- Adjustment of medications, such as levothyroxine- an iodine supplement medication taken by people who have deficient thyroid hormones before pregnancy.
- Screening and monitoring of thyroid hormone levels
- Testing for autoimmune diseases that can lead to hypothyroidism
When all these are put in place, you have a better chance of having a successful pregnancy despite hypothyroidism.
Managing Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy by Natural means with Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, three doshas are responsible for health. They need to be balanced for a person to be in an optimal state of health. If there is an imbalance, there could be problems.
These doshas are the vata, pitta and kapha doshas.
The pitta dosha is responsible for hormones and Pitta is the energy of ‘transformation.’ Therefore, hypothyroidism is directly linked to pitta dosha imbalance.
The problem arises when the meda dhatu (fat tissue), a component of the Kapha dosha, begins to block the functioning of the thyroid gland (in this case).
This excess kapha also blocks agni, which is a component of the pitta dosha. Agni is the digestive fire, and digestion is a major part of metabolism.
So, if agni is blocked then the functioning of the thyroid gland is affected.
Why you may want to go natural?
The medications that are taken to manage hypothyroidism can have some side effects. The truth is, synthetic hormones cannot be exactly as the real ones.
Your body has been made to regulate these things itself. It only needs to be optimized for the function. If you give your body foreign substances in form of medications, it’s going to complain about it.
These complaints show up as side effects.
Here are some effects of levothryoxine, the medication commonly taken for hypothyroidism in a bid to replace the deficient thyroid hormone:
- Insomnia (sleep problems)
- Hot flashes and fever
- Weight changes
- Appetite changes
- Further irregularities in menstrual period, etc.
Thankfully, if you are breastfeeding, only a little amount of the drug is able to reach your infant through your breast milk. The baby is relatively safe.
However, if you would rather avoid these altogether-your baby’s health is important, and so is your own health also-you should give natural solutions a shot. Ayurveda is a very good bet.
Ayurvedic management of Hypothyroidism
Due to the above, treatment is targeted at aiding the digestive fire to pierce through the cloaking fat tissue. Also, the fat tissue is targeted for clearing out.
Pankacharma – Detoxification Therapy
Panchkarma follows a sequence of 5 Ayurvedic medical therapies. Here the focus is to eliminate the excessive Dosha and toxins out of your body.
This helps you to regain balance of hormones, digestive fire, and also improves the functioning of your body systems.
Abhyanga is the practice of massage, using oils. This helps you relax and can help with the muscle cramping symptoms.
Medicated powder massage can help you relax.
Diet and Lifestyle
Appropriate changes in your diet and lifestyle can also help you manage hypothyroidism and pregnancy. Here are some guidelines:
- Regularly practice yoga and pranayama can help to calm yourself from the inside out.
- Include Ayurvedic herbs on consultation with Ayurvedic Doctor. Some helpful herbs are Ashwaghanda, Guggulu, Triphala and Shatavari.
- Reduce you intake of cauliflower, cabbage, and peanuts.
- Take more foods that contain iodine. For example, you can begin to take iodized salt instead of the regular salt.
- Take more rest to help with the fatigue that hypothyroidism makes you feel.
The added bonus here is that, following these natural principles will help you attain a holistic state of health, and also without side effects.
Note that it is difficult to self-diagnose hypothyroidism, as the symptoms can be caused by other health disorders and nutritional deficiencies. Hence, it is important that you keep in touch with your healthcare provider for advice.
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