Pregnancy and Thyroid disease

on Sun 29 Nov

hCG is made by the placenta and mildly stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. Increased oestrogen produces higher levels of thyroid-binding (or thyroxine-binding) globulin which transports thyroid hormone in the blood.



Six out of every thousand pregnancies are complicated by Hyperthyroidism – 85% of which take the form of the autoimmune disorder Graves Disease - and this can sometimes be picked up by visible signs such as thyroid swelling (goitre) and irritation, bulging or puffiness of the eyes (orbitopathy).


Other symptoms can include:

  • Irregular/rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling
  • Heat intolerance
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Failure to have normal pregnancy weight gain


Severe nausea and vomiting may be associated with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum which leads to dehydration and weight loss.  It is believed this is caused by excessive levels of hcG which leads to a temporary form of hyperthyroidism which appears only in the first half of the pregnancy.



Two in every 1,000 pregnancies are complicated by hypothyroidism and this is usually in the form of Hashimoto’s disease.  Symptoms are likely to include

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Palpitations
  • Cramping of the muscles
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Problems with concentrating or remembering


Although the thyroid does enlarge slightly in healthy pregnant women it is not enough to be detected by physical examination so if there is a noticeably enlarged thyroid this could be a sign of thyroid disease and you should get checked out.

Lack of treatment for either condition can cause problems for both the mother and child as the baby is entirely dependent on is mother for the production of the thyroid hormone during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnant women with severe thyroid disease can experience

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Anaemia
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Detachment of the placenta
  • And rarely congestive heart failure


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism or hyperthyroidism please get in touch with your GP and ask for a blood test.



Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.

As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.


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