Thyroid Disease & Pregnancy
I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism) about seven years ago. I knew something wasn’t right because on most nights I would find myself asleep on the couch and barely able to even drag myself to bed by about 7 p.m. Now, I should note that I wasn’t waking up at unreasonable hours and I was working in an office job from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., so there wasn’t anything going on to justify such exhaustion. I discussed this with my PCP at my next appointment and mentioned to her that my mom was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism a few years prior. She ordered a blood test, which confirmed that I, too, had hypothyroidism. I was to start a daily prescription immediately.
Once we found the proper dosage and the medicine was in full effect, this condition proved to be pretty manageable. The frequent naps, 7 p.m. bedtime and all that exhaustion weren’t working for me, but a pill a day and a couple of blood tests a year were ok by me. Once you get into a routine and can remember to take your prescription at approximately the same time each day, and avoid eating during the following 30-45 minutes, it just becomes another part of your daily routine.
The Effects of Thyroid Disease on Pregnancy
Naturally, I began wondering how this would affect me when my husband and I decided to start a family, so I went to Google. I found that thyroid disease may affect fertility, but that this is unlikely when your levels are well-managed. “Okay, I can deal with that” I thought – but I also made a mental note to prepare myself in case it wasn’t as easy as I hoped. I also found that women without pre-existing thyroid conditions may actually develop them during pregnancy. Since the thyroid affects your hormones and pregnancy is all about fluctuating hormones, it made sense and seemed pretty common. These were the issues I knew I’d want to address with my doctor before we started planning for our family.
When we found out we were expecting our first child, I started seeing an Endocrinologist for my thyroid. I had never been to one before, since my PCP maintained my thyroid. Now my OB, midwife and Endocrinologist are all monitoring my levels more closely, which means I have more frequent blood labs, but for the most part I’m able to schedule those around my regular prenatal visits. I’ve seen expectant mothers on a variety of parenting and pregnancy forums whose reported thyroid levels dipped during pregnancy, asking desperately for more information about this and whether or not they should trust their doctor by taking this medication to treat their thyroid. They are afraid the medication will harm their babies. Your thyroid is essential in keeping your hormone levels stable, especially during pregnancy, when it also helps your baby develop properly (particularly early on in your pregnancy). It is so important that you take this medication as prescribed and know that it will not harm your baby. And if it’s anything like missing a dose pre-pregnancy, it can throw off your levels quite a bit and take awhile to get back on track. So, do put a reminder in your smartphone calendar or do whatever will work for you to stick with your new routine.
I’m not sure if it’s standard to test your thyroid with your initial blood tests in early pregnancy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor. I actually recommend you speak with your doctor about it when you’re planning to start a family. With my laundry list of questions at my first prenatal visit, I overlooked this one, but quickly called and brought it up with the nurse once I realized this. Given my pre-pregnancy diagnosis, they did the bloodwork right away. Hyper- and Hypothyroidism seem so common today, and while it can be an easily managed condition, it can also cause quite a bit of difficulty conceiving and during pregnancy if it goes undetected or mismanaged.
Do you have any tips for managing Hyper- or Hypothyroidism during pregnancy?
I’m an expectant first-time mom, employee of Bright Horizons and a foodie who loves to cook, travel and laugh. In my free time, I like to pretend I know how to use my DSLR like a pro and do basically all things creative (major DIY-er here). I’m excited to share some of the ups-and-downs of my journey to parenthood as my husband, two dogs and I gear up for our new addition to the family!