Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy

Over ten years ago, I noticed that I was tired, very tired, even after waking up. I was lethargic and couldn’t remember certain words when it came to having conversations. I felt groggy most of the day and had zero energy.

When I finally went to the doctor for a blood test, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I had no clue what a thyroid was, let alone what an under active one meant!

Now fast-forward to today, I still have an under active thyroid. More specifically, Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder in which my immune system creates antibodies that damage my thyroid gland.

I have one very healthy 16-month-old son, and I want to have another baby someday. But what does this disease mean for me and trying to get pregnant again?

Let’s start from the beginning….

What is hypothyroidism?

All hormones in your body are controlled by the thyroid which is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck.

Having hypothyroidism means that your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s needs. Thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in your body, even the way your heart beats, and without enough, many of your body’s functions slow down.

About 4.6% of the U.S. population ages 12 and older have hypothyroidism,

Symptoms to look out for

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Female doctor examining thyroid glands of pregnant woman in hospital

Pregnancy and hypothyroidism

The thyroid is one of the most important organs during pregnancy and many women who have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s have no issues getting pregnant.

Being pregnant and having an under active thyroid or Hashimoto’s can be challenging  as  an embryo needs thyroid hormones to develop, and cannot produce them on its own until the end of the first trimester.

As an embryo depends on the mother’s thyroid hormones, it’s crucial to have enough hormones for you and your baby’s daily needs. If you are currently on thyroid medication, you will probably need to adjust the dose (maybe a few times) during the first few weeks and months of pregnancy.

I had to go to my endocrinologist every six weeks during my pregnancy and my dose increased dramatically throughout that time.

Fertility and thyroid

Just because you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s doesn’t mean you cannot get pregnant or that you are less fertile. It’s important that the diagnosis is confirmed, so that you can manage your condition for a healthy and successful pregnancy.

Synthetic hormones are prescribed to counteract the thyroid hormone deficiency. So if you have any symptoms above, book a doctor’s appointment and get your levels checked before trying to get pregnant.

Healthy lifestyle to combat and help hypothyroidism

Now what?

A healthy lifestyle has a positive influence on the autoimmune reactions associated with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Supplements, especially those that contain selenium and zinc, have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system. They can relieve inflammation and improve the uptake of thyroid hormones, having a positive influence on fertility as a result.

It might sound scary being told you have hypothyroidism or a autoimmune disease. But as long as you go for regular blood tests, take your medication as prescribed while always being aware if your symptoms get worse, you will be able to manage this and get pregnant with no issues.

Now my hormone levels are managed pretty well, I go for blood tests every six months to make sure my dosage is correct. When I do get pregnant again I will have to go more regularly which is a bit of a pain, but worth it to make sure that everything is working well so baby can develop properly.

What lifestyle changes have you adopted since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s? Please share your experience with us.