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Hypothyroidism and its effect on unborn child By Dr Tulika, Motherhood Hospital, Noida
In India, thyroid diseases are quite prevalent in expecting women. It has been found that the occurrence of hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce certain crucial hormones in the body, in pregnant women in India is between four and six per cent on an average. However, the similar condition affects only two to three per cent of pregnant women in western countries.
Unchecked or untreated hypothyroidism during pregnancy leads to preterm birth and low birth weight in the babies. So, it's important that a woman should get herself checked for thyroid especially during pregnancy because the fetus relies on the mother for thyroid hormones in the first few months of conception. The thyroid hormones present in the mother's body essay an essential role in normal brain development of the unborn child and thus, deprivation of the maternal thyroid hormone due to hypothyroidism can have unalterable effects on the fetus.
Even studies have presented that those children, who were born out of hypothyroidism mothers during pregnancy, have lower IQ and impaired psycho-motor (mental and motor) development. But, fret not! If the condition is properly controlled and treated well, then those women with hypothyroidism can also have healthier babies.
Effect of Hypothyroidism on unborn child and mother
Since the thyroid gland of the unborn child takes time to function on its own, it's completely dependent on the mother for the thyroid hormones. Development and functioning of baby's thyroid gland do not take place until about the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. Therefore, it's suggested that women should start getting their thyroid disorder managed before conceiving so that impaired neurological functioning, stunted growth and physical deformities in the children can be avoided.
There is always best to plan for pregnancy and to consult with your physician to ensure your thyroid status and treatment are optimized prior to becoming pregnant and monitored throughout your pregnancy. However, if this does not happen and you find out you are pregnant, you should contact your physician immediately to arrange for increased testing of your thyroid functions and a potential change in your medication.
Untreated or poorly controlled hypothyroidism can also lead to:
So, it is vital for pregnant women with hypothyroidism to take the recommended thyroid medication consistently.
How is hypothyroidism treated during pregnancy?
The treatment of hypothyroidism in pregnant women is similar to that of who are non-pregnant. Doctors recommend synthetic T4 so that it compensates the presence of essential hormones in the body. The medication should be taken regularly so that a steady blood level of thyroid hormone gets adjusted within the normal range as the requirement of thyroid hormones increases during pregnancy. Therefore, it is a routine practice to monitor the blood level of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) during pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism women can have healthy pregnancy by getting early prenatal care and working with their healthcare providers in the management of their disease.
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