Thursday, July 13, 2006

symptom thyroid : Hyperthyroidism and Pregnancy

Hyperthyroidism refers to the signs and symptoms which are due to the production of too much thyroid hormone. [Hyperthyroidism is covered in great deal on other pages on this site (about 8 in all), so only that part of hyperthyroidism which pertains to the pregnant mother will be discussed here]. An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) often has its onset in younger women. Because a woman may think that feeling warm, having a hard or fast heartbeats, nervousness, trouble sleeping, or nausea with weight loss are just parts of being pregnant, the symptoms and signs of this condition may be overlooked during pregnancy.

In women who are not pregnant, hyperthyroidism can affect menstrual periods, making them irregular, lighter, or disappear altogether. It may be harder for hyperthyroid women to become pregnant, and they are more likely to have miscarriages. If a woman with infertility or repeated miscarriages has symptoms of hyperthyroidism, it is important to rule out this condition with thyroid blood tests. It is very important that hyperthyroidism be controlled in pregnant women since the risks of miscarriage or birth defects are much higher without therapy. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available. Antithyroid medications cut down the thyroid gland's overproduction of hormones and are reviewed on another page on this site. When taken faithfully, they control hyperthyroidism within a few weeks. In pregnant women thyroid experts consider propylthiouracil (PTU) the safest drug. Because PTU can also affect the baby's thyroid gland, it is very important that pregnant women be monitored closely with examinations and blood tests so that the PTU dose can be adjusted. In rare cases when a pregnant woman cannot take PTU for some reason (allergy or other side effects), surgery to remove the thyroid gland is the only alternative and should be undertaken prior to or even during the pregnancy if necessary. Although radioactive iodine is a very effective treatment for other patients with hyperthyroidism, it should never be given during pregnancy because the baby's thyroid gland could be damaged.

Because treating hyperthyroidism during pregnancy can be a bit tricky, it is usually best for women who plan to have children in the near future to have their thyroid condition permanently cured. Antithyroid medications alone may not be the best approach in these cases because hyperthyroidism often returns when medications is stopped. Radioactive iodine is the most widely recommended permanent treatment with surgical removal being the second (but widely used) choice. It is concentrated by thyroid cells and damages them with little radiation to the rest of the body. This is why it cannot be given to a pregnant woman, since the radioactive iodine could cross the placenta and destroy normal thyroid cells in the baby. The only common side effect of radioactive iodine treatment is underactivity of the thyroid gland, which occurs because too many thyroid cells were destroyed. This can be easily and safely treated with levothyroxine. There is no evidence that radioactive iodine treatment of hyperthyroidism interferes with a woman's future chances of becoming pregnant and delivering a healthy baby. For more information on the treatment options of hyperthyroidism see our page on this topic.

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