Thyroid and Pregnancy

Thyroid and Pregnancy

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a gland found in front of the neck. It consists of two lobes and is located below the Adam’s Apple.

What is the function of the thyroid?

The thyroid gland releases hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) which are responsible for maintaining the metabolic rate of the body.

How is the thyroid linked to pregnancy?

The baby growing in the uterus of the mother develops a thyroid in the second trimester and therefore is completely dependent on the mother during the first trimester,for an adequate supply of iodine, which is required for the proper development of the mental capacity of the baby.

Two hormones released during pregnancy namely human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and oestrogen cause an increase in levels of thyroid hormones in the pregnant woman.

What are the signs and symptoms associated with thyroid disease during pregnancy?

When there is a change in level of hormones T3 amd T4, a pregnant woman’s body reacts in the form of a variety of signs and symptoms which indicate that thyroid is not functioning the way it is supposed to. Some of these symptoms are as under:


This condition causes the thyroid to work at a decreased pace and leads to the following:

· Fatigue

· Slow heat rate

· Depression

· Constipation

· Weight gain

· Intolerance to cold temperature

· Enlarged thyroid gland

What is the cause of hypothyroidism?

Deficiency of iodine

Iodine is a vital component for the formation of thyroid hormones. Decrease intake of iodine in the diet leads to a lack of such hormones.

Hashimoto’s disease

It is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s defense systems think of the thyroid gland as a foreign body and attack it. This causes damage to the gland thereby decreasing its ability to release T3 and T4.


This condition causes the thyroid gland to an increased pace and leads to the following:

· Fatigue

· Fast heart rate

· Anxiety

· Diarrhea

· Weight loss

· Intolerance to heat

· Enlarged thyroid gland

What is the cause of hyperthyroidism?

Graves disease

This is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s produces antibodies (substances designed to protect the body from harm) in order to attack the thyroid gland as it thinks of the gland as a potential threat to the well of the body.

The damage to the thyroid gland causes the hormones present in the gland to leak out and these high levels of T3 and T4 lead to hyperthyroidism

How do we diagnose thyroid disease?

Mentioned below are ways in which we can figure out if the thyroid of a pregnant woman is not functioning properly:

Check the level of iodine in the body

Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones so it’s important to know whether is in sufficient quantity in the body or not.

TSH and thyroid hormones

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) lets the thyroid gland know whether or not the body is in need of T3 and T4. In a patient who has hypothyroidism the level of TSH is increased and thyroid hormones are decreased. In the case of hyperthyroidism the opposite is true.

How do we manage thyroid disease?

As far as hypothyroidism is concerned the best option a patient has is to increase the intake of iodine in the diet and get a life-long supply of T4.

Talking about hyperthyroidism, a patient first must take a few anti thyroid medications such as propylthiouracil. This must be followed by the removal of the enlarged thyroid gland via surgery.

Finally, a lifelong supply of T4 is provided to the patient to give the proper amount of thyroid hormones to the body.