The thyroid is an important part of our everyday health, however the majority of people don’t know what the thyroid is or why the function is important to their own health and the development of their little one. As many things through pregnancy, your practitioner may mention your thyroid and read some of your test results but without laying out the foundational understanding of what it all means. Have you had your blood work done and then walk away thinking “ok, but what does that even mean?” If so, you aren’t alone. I remember listening to my doctor and leaving with the knowledge of where the “red flags” were but never what that actually meant or what I needed to do now. Today we are going to dive into all things thyroid. We will go over the foundational points regarding our thyroid health and the testing around it during pregnancy and postpartum.
WHAT IS THE THYROID?
The thyroid is a gland in your neck that is shaped like a butterfly, how cute huh? Of course it sounds cute but it is also a very important part of our bodies metabolic function. Our thyroid is connected to our body temperature, our weight, our energy and mood, as well as our digestion. In other words, it’s important!
THYROID FUNCTION DURING PREGNANCY
Thyroid levels and function can change throughout pregnancy and can result in showing an increase or decrease in thyroid hormone production. Typically in the beginning of pregnancy, the levels of HCG in your body turn on the thyroid, which will then result in an increase in thyroid hormone production. This increase in TH then decreases your TSH slightly. (see below the difference between TH and TSH). However, your thyroid will then start to normalize during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
Here is a breakdown of how the thyroid functions in hopes that your test results will be more understandable with this visual.
When your thyroid over produces thyroid hormone this can lead to a plethora of other symptoms if not treated. On the flip side, if your thyroid is under producing thyroid hormone this can also result in unwanted outcomes for you and baby. It is important to keep in mind that your thyroid function can continue to fluctuate even postpartum.
A few foundational points to keep in mind when it comes to understanding your thyroid during pregnancy.
- Get your thyroid checked before conceiving. The first 16 weeks of gestation, your little one will be relying on your thyroid function. Work with your practitioner to see if adjustments need to be made to balance your thyroid hormone production.
- Go over your test results with your doctor and don’t be shy to ask for further information or a more understandable description of what is going on.
- Get tested frequently if your results are abnormal. This will be important to not only keep an eye on your thyroid function but also as a way to adjust any medications or supplements you may be taking to balance the production of thyroid hormone.
- Continue to get your tested after pregnancy as fluctuations can continue post delivery.
As mentioned, your thyroid can be expected to have a few small fluctuations throughout your pregnancy and even postpartum. However, large fluctuations or a continued drop or raise in thyroid production is a red flag.
A few foundational points to keep in mind when it comes to thyroid testing and looking at your results.
- Get tested often, especially if experiencing symptoms or have had previous abnormal bloodwork.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is different than thyroid hormone.
- Seeing test results just for your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) do not give you a full picture of your thyroid function.
- T3 and T4 should be tested as well to see if your thyroid is utilizing the TSH in your body. You can ask for a full thyroid panel if needed.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF THRYOID DYSFUNCTION
It can be difficult to diagnose thyroid dysfunction, especially without a full thyroid panel because many symptoms overlap with what is perceived to be common pregnancy symptoms. A few common ones are:
- impaired memory
- dry skin
- weight fluctuation (gaining or losing)
- intolerance to the cold
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