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If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to several potentially serious pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, anemia, heart conditions, as well as miscarriage, but with the right treatment and a doctor's supervision, everything can run smoothly.

During the gestational period, a woman's body goes through some major hormonal changes so it's no wonder that many reports have linked pregnancy with the onset of hypothyroidism. Thyroid problems may start when a woman gets pregnant, but most pregnant hypothyroid patients have gone through some form of intervention for hypothyroidism in the past. In cases of previously existing thyroid problems, they mostly aggravate during the pregnancy.

Pregnancy-caused thyroid problems can be hard to identify because the symptoms can also be part of gestation. It's important to have your hormones in check during pregnancy because hypothyroidism can have serious consequences for mother as well for a child if not treated properly.

The intensity of the possible problems you might experience during pregnancy is determined by how serious is your underactive thyroid, and how early or late you receive the right medical attention. Symptoms are diverse and also depend on the seriousness of your condition. Your pregnancy can run smoothly if you're supervised by a good endocrinologist. If you have hypothyroidism, make sure to speak about it with your doctor as soon as you start planning a pregnancy.

1. Preeclampsia

Also known as toxemia, preeclampsia (PE), is a common pregnancy problem that often results in hypertension, water retention, and notable quantity of proteins in the urine. PE commonly starts at the beginning of the second trimester in women with no previous signs of hypertension.

It's not uncommon that this serious condition comes about itself, but it usually spreads from certain pregnancy-caused complications such as low levels of thyroid hormone.

The exact connection between hypothyroidism and preeclampsia during pregnancy is still unknown, but some theories suggest that increased levels of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in women with underactive thyroid occurs in cases of PE. Make sure to often visit your doctors during pregnancy. If preeclampsia isn't monitored and treated, it can have terrible consequences for you and a baby in the womb.

2. Future mothers and iron deficiency

Research has found a link between iron deficiency (anemia) and underactive thyroid gland. Even though both these conditions are treatable, research has found that one in three women lacks iron during pregnancy; and this can cause major trauma to a baby if nothing is done to fix it. It seems that the increased amount of perioxidase antibodies and a weakened immune system somehow affect mother's levels of iron. Scientists can't determine yet whether underactive thyroid causes anemia, or vice versa. There are studies supporting both stanzas, so more research is needed.

3. Future mothers and heart conditions

Hypothyroid people often have increased levels of LDL, or the “bad” type of cholesterol. This is a possible connection between having hypothyroidism and developing a heart condition. Excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol in combination with hypothyroidism can cause issues such as:

  • Increased chances of heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Artery hardening
  • Water retention around the heart
  • Pericardial effusion
  • Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)

4. Postpartum bleeding

Acute underactive thyroid is known to cause a lot of problems: increased menstrual bleeding, painful periods, blood clotting, post-natal bleeding, and even hypovolemic shock if a woman doesn't treat these issues while she's pregnant.

5. Congenital defects

If a pregnant woman and her doctors fail in finding the right treatment for her underactive thyroid, she has bigger chances of bearing a child with birth defects. Children born from hypothyroid mothers are more likely to have developmental and learning problems while growing up when compared to children born from healthy mothers. There are chances that child will inherit his mother's disease, but if it's detected and treated early, the child still has great possibilities of normal growth and normal life.

6.Hypothyroidism in offspring

If your underactive thyroid is not treated during pregnancy, it's possible that the child will be born with hypothyroidism as well. This inherited condition is called congenital hypothyroidism (CHT) and it often needs a lifetime treatment. Some children will need hormone replacement therapy for a short period, and they're usually fine by the age of three.

There are no clear symptoms of hypothyroidism in newborns, but some children show signs of jaundice, puffiness, enlarged tongue, as well as bloating. It is crucial to treat hypothyroidism in babies right away, otherwise it can cause detrimental effects on their cognitive development.

7. Preterm delivery

Autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism are commonly linked to premature birth. Delivery is considered early if it happens prior to the 37th gestational week. Unfortunately, mortality rates are quite high when it comes to preemies. Research has found that —unlike overt hypothyroidism — mild (formally called subclinical) cases of underactive thyroid are not associated with premature delivery. It's common that mothers who have underactive thyroid during pregnancy give birth to underweight, or larger and heavier children.

8. Miscarriage

Underactive thyroid is a serious condition that can cause major complications during pregnancy and labor. Researchers have found that women who suffer from hypothyroidism and don't treat it while pregnant have four times bigger chances of miscarriage and stillbirth. Another research suggests that women with subclinical hypothyroidism have a greater risk of premature birth, as well as stillbirth.

It's been known for some time now that underactive thyroid brings a greater risk of developing a few other possibly dangerous conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Baby that is too small for gestational age (SGA)
  • Death of a baby in the uterus

Apparently, underactive thyroid during pregnancy is responsible for 0.83 percent of stillbirth cases. If left untreated for too long, hypothyroidism can cause a lot of problems, including the death of both mother and baby.

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