Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by Hashimoto’s disease, which causes the immune system to attack and damage the thyroid, preventing it from producing the hormone thyroxin. It may also be caused by treatment for hyperthyroidism, removal of the thyroid gland, and treatment for certain types of cancer.
Symptoms usually develop gradually over several years, beginning with fatigue and extending to muscle weakness, increased sensitivity to cold, unusual weight gain, puffiness in the face, and high LDL cholesterol. Treatment for hypothyroidism is simple and effective. The doctor will prescribe a thyroid replacement hormone. The patient’s thyroxine blood levels will be monitored until the right dosage is reached. Usually, an improvement is noticed within the first week. Symptoms should be eliminated completely within a few months.
Surprise, surprise: hypothyroidism diagnosis
Mothers who are experiencing symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed with hypothyroidism will be screened. Screening involves a blood test to measure thyroid hormone (thyroxine) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Hypothyroidism often occurs when the levels of these two hormones are too low.
A bump in the road: how hypothyroidism affects pregnancy
A mother-to-be needs enough of the hormone thyroxin for her body to accommodate all the changes that come along with pregnancy. Thyroxin is also important for the baby. It helps the growing fetus brain development. It is therefore, very important that the mother’s thyroxin levels are just right.
Not only is it perfectly safe to continue to take the prescribed thyroxin medication during pregnancy, it is imperative. If a woman fails to take the medication throughout her pregnancy it can seriously affect her health. It can also put the life of the child in danger.
Getting ready for the rush: monitoring TSH levels
As pregnancy progresses, the mother’s need for thyroxin will increase dramatically. In order to prepare for this requirement, the doctor will monitor her thyroxin levels. Monitoring usually takes place every four weeks for the first trimester, then again at 16 and 28 weeks. In some cases, it may be more frequent. As long as the condition is monitored, and mediation is suitably adjusted and taken as prescribed, both mother and baby should be fine.