Common Discomforts During Pregnancy

Your body has a great deal to do during pregnancy. Sometimes the changes taking place will cause irritation or discomfort, and on occasions, they may seem quite alarming. There is rarely any need for alarm but you should mention anything that is worrying you to your maternity team. Below you will find some common discomforts that women can have at various stages of their pregnancy including cramps, headaches, stretch marks, swollen ankles, and varicose veins. Common Discomforts During Pregnancy. About half of all pregnant women experience nausea and sometimes vomiting in the first trimester–also called morning sickness because symptoms are most severe in the morning. Some women may have nausea and vomiting throughout the pregnancy.

Morning Sickness 

Morning sickness is a common symptom of early pregnancy that usually goes away by the end of the first three months. Morning sickness or nausea (with or without vomiting) can happen at any time of the day and is caused by changes in hormones during pregnancy. Some food and eating suggestions that may help manage symptoms of morning sickness or nausea. Some food and eating suggestions that may help manage symptoms of morning sickness or nausea. Eat smaller meals more often. Missing meals can make nausea worse. If vomiting, it is important to drink enough fluids. It may be easier to have lots of small drinks than to try and drink a large amount in one go. Try a variety of fluids such as water, fruit juice, lemonade, and clear soups. Sometimes it can be helpful to try crushed ice, slushies, ice blocks, or even suck on frozen fruit such as grapes or orange segments. If you are unable to take in fluids or feel weak, dizzy or unwell, you may be suffering from dehydration and you should seek medical attention urgently.

Backache in Pregnancy  

During pregnancy, the ligaments in your body naturally become softer and stretch to prepare you for labour. This can put a strain on the joints of your lower back and pelvis, which can cause backache. The extra weight of your uterus and the increasing size of the hollow in your lower back can also add to the problem. A firm mattress can also help to prevent and relieve backache. If your mattress is too soft, put a piece of cardboard under it to make it firmer.

Bladder and bowel problems during pregnancy

During pregnancy, many women experience some rather unpleasant conditions like constipation, needing to urinate more frequently, incontinence and hemorrhoids (piles). Maintaining a healthy diet (nutrition) and doing regular exercise (movement) can help make your pregnancy a bit less uncomfortable. You may become constipated very early in pregnancy because of the hormonal changes in your body. Constipation can mean that you are not passing stools (feces) as often as you normally do, you have to strain more than usual or you are unable to completely empty your bowels. Constipation can also cause your stools to be unusually hard, lumpy, large or small.

Frequent urination

The need to frequently urinate (pass water or pee) often starts from early in your pregnancy. Sometimes it continues right through pregnancy. In later pregnancy the need to frequently urinate results from the baby’s head pressing or resting on your bladder.

If you find that you need to get up in the night to urinate, try cutting out drinks in the late evening. But make sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks during the day. Later in pregnancy, some women find it helps to rock backward and forwards while they are on the toilet. This lessens the pressure of the womb on the bladder so that you can empty it properly. Then you may not need to pass water again quite so soon.

If you have any burning or stinging while passing urine or you pass any blood in your urine, you may have a urinary tract infection, which will need treatment. Drink plenty of water to dilute your urine and reduce pain.

Dealing with cramps, swelling and varicose veins 

Cramps, swelling, and varicose veins are some of the most common issues women experience during pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, doing regular exercise and getting plenty of rest should help to alleviate the symptoms. Cramps are sudden, sharp pain, usually in your calf muscles or feet. It is most common at night. Regular, gentle exercise in pregnancy, particularly ankle and leg movements, may improve your circulation and may help to prevent cramp occurring. Ankles, feet, and hands often swell a little in pregnancy because your body is holding more fluid than usual. Towards the end of the day, especially if the weather is hot or if you have been standing a lot, the extra fluid tends to gather in the lowest parts of the body. The gradual swelling isn’t harmful to you or your baby, but it can be uncomfortable and your shoes can feel tight.

Dealing with fatigue during your pregnancy

Feeling tired and hotter than usual is quite common during pregnancy. Many pregnant women also feel faint and this is due to hormonal changes. Pregnant women often feel faint. This is because of hormonal changes occurring in your body during pregnancy. Fainting happens if your brain is not getting enough blood and therefore not enough oxygen. If your oxygen levels get too low, it may cause you to faint. You are most likely to feel faint if you stand too quickly from a chair, off the toilet or out of a bath, but it can also happen when you are lying on your back.

It’s common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks or so. Hormonal changes taking place in your body at this time can make you feel tired, nauseous and emotional. The only answer is to try to rest as much as possible. Make time to sit with your feet up during the day, and accept any offers of help from colleagues and family. Being tired and run-down can make you feel low. Try to look after your physical health by eating a healthy diet and get plenty of rest and sleep. Later on, in pregnancy, you may feel tired because of the extra weight you are carrying. Make sure you get plenty of rest. As your baby gets bigger, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. You might find it uncomfortable lying down or, just when you get comfortable, you have to get up to go to the toilet.

Feeling tired won’t harm you or your baby, but it can make life feel more difficult, especially in the early days before you’ve told people about your pregnancy. Make sure you get as much rest as you can.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

During pregnancy, almost all women have more vaginal discharge. This happens because the cervix (neck of the womb) and vaginal walls get softer during pregnancy and discharge increases to help prevent any infections traveling up from the vagina to the womb.


All women, whether they’re pregnant or not, have some vaginal discharge starting a year or two before puberty and ending after the menopause. How much discharge you have changed from time to time and it usually gets heavier just before your period. Almost all women have more vaginal discharge in pregnancy. This is quite normal and happens for a few reasons. During pregnancy, the cervix (neck of the womb) and vaginal walls get softer and discharge increases to help prevent any infections traveling up from the vagina to the womb.

Towards the end of pregnancy, the number of discharge increases and can be confused with urine. In the last week or so of pregnancy, your discharge may contain streaks of thick mucus and some blood. This is called a ‘show’ and happens when the mucus that has been present in your cervix during pregnancy comes away. It’s a sign that the body is starting to prepare for birth, and you may have a few small ‘shows’ in the days before you go into labour. If you have any vaginal bleeding in pregnancy, you should contact your midwife or doctor, as it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem such as a miscarriage or a problem with the placenta.


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Overweight Pregnancy Risks

Being overweight increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies. The higher a woman’s BMI, the higher the risks. The increasing risks are in relation to miscarriage – the overall risk of miscarriage under 12 weeks is one in five (20%); if you have a BMI over 30, the risk is one in four (25%)

The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have pregnancy complications. But there are things you can do before and during pregnancy to help you have a healthy baby. Being overweight is based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (also called BMI). Pre-pregnancy means your BMI before you get pregnant.

If you started off your pregnancy carrying too much weight for your height, you’re far from alone. More than half of pregnant women are overweight or obese. You’re considered overweight if your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9. (Your BMI reflects the relationship between your height and weight and is an estimate of body fat.) You’re considered obese if your BMI is 30 or greater.

How much weight to gain if you’re pregnant and overweight or obese

How much to gain during pregnancy depends on your BMI:

  • If your BMI is 25 to 29.9: It’s recommended that you gain between 15 and 25 pounds by the end of your pregnancy or approximately 2 to 3 pounds per month in your second and third trimesters.
  • If your BMI is 30 or higher: You’re advised to gain only 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.

Obesity during pregnancy puts you at risk of several serious health problems:

  • Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. This condition can increase the risk of having a cesarean delivery. Women who have had gestational diabetes also have a higher risk of having diabetes in the future, as do their children. Obese women are screened for gestational diabetes early in pregnancy and also may be screened later in pregnancy as well.
  • Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure disorder that can occur during pregnancy or after pregnancy. It is a serious illness that affects a woman’s entire body. The kidneys and liver may fail. Preeclampsia can lead to seizures, a condition called eclampsia. In rare cases, a stroke can occur. Severe cases need emergency treatment to avoid these complications. The baby may need to be delivered early.
  • Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. Sleep apnea is associated with obesity. During pregnancy, sleep apnea not only can cause fatigue but also increases the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and heart and lung disorders.

Obesity increases the risk of the following problems during pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy loss—Obese women have an increased risk of pregnancy loss (miscarriage) compared with women of normal weight.
  • Birth defects—Babies born to obese women have an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects.
  • Problems with diagnostic tests—Having too much body fat can make it difficult to see certain problems with the baby’s anatomy on an ultrasound exam. Checking the baby’s heart rate during labor also may be more difficult if you are obese.
  • Macrosomia—In this condition, the baby is larger than normal. This can increase the risk of the baby being injured during birth. For example, the baby’s shoulder can become stuck during delivery. Macrosomia also increases the risk of cesarean delivery. Infants born with too much body fat have a greater chance of being obese later in life.
  • Preterm birth—Problems associated with a woman’s obesity, such as preeclampsia, may lead to a medically indicated preterm birth. This means that the baby is delivered early for a medical reason. Preterm babies are not as fully developed as babies who are born after 39 weeks of pregnancy. As a result, they have an increased risk of short-term and long-term health problems.
  • Stillbirth—The higher the woman’s BMI, the greater the risk of stillbirth.

Can I diet to lose weight during pregnancy? 

Pregnancy is definitely not the time to go on a weight-loss diet: Restricting your food intake is potentially hazardous to you and your developing baby. But many plus-size women do lose weight during pregnancy without dieting.

In the first trimester, it’s common to lose weight as a result of morning sickness. Nausea can diminish your appetite, and the vomiting can cause you to miss out on calories. But even so, your baby will get all the necessary calories.

Overweight women have an extra reserve of calories in stored fat, so as your baby grows, it’s not harmful to maintain or even lose a little weight at first. What’s not okay is losing weight because you’re intentionally cutting calories (and, as a result, limiting nutrients).

Can I still have a healthy pregnancy if I am obese?

Despite the risks, you can have a healthy pregnancy if you are obese. It takes careful management of your weight, attention to diet and exercise, regular prenatal care to monitor for complications, and special considerations for your labor and delivery.

How to stay on track with weight gain if you’re overweight or obese?

Exercising and eating healthy food can help you with your weight gain goals, and both can have a positive impact on your pregnancy, reducing your risk of pregnancy problems like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. They’ll also help you feel good during your pregnancy and beyond.

How does obesity affect labor and delivery?

Overweight and obese women have longer labors than women of normal weight. It can be harder to monitor the baby during labor. For these reasons, obesity during pregnancy increases the likelihood of having a cesarean delivery. If a cesarean delivery is needed, the risks of infection, bleeding, and other complications are greater for an obese woman than for a woman of normal weight.

Eat a healthy pregnancy diet and Exercise regularly Some women do lose weight during pregnancy if they make healthy diet and lifestyle changes, so make sure to check in with your doctor if this happens to you.



What is HELLP Syndrome?

HELLP syndrome is a rare but serious condition that can happen when you’re pregnant  or right after you have your baby. There are still many questions about the serious condition of HELLP syndrome. The cause is still unclear to many doctors and often HELLP syndrome is misdiagnosed. It is named for 3 features of the condition:

Hemolysis: This is the breakdown of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your body.

Elevated Liver Enzymes: When levels are high, it could mean there’s a problem with your liver.

Low Platelet Count: Platelets help your blood clot.


It is often assumed that HELLP Syndrome will always occur in connection with preeclampsia, but there are times when the symptoms of HELLP will occur without a diagnosis of preeclampsia being made. About 4-12% of women with diagnosed preeclampsia will develop HELLP syndrome. Unfortunately since the symptoms of HELLP syndrome may be the first sign of preeclampsia, this is what can often lead to a misdiagnosed. The symptoms of HELLP may cause misdiagnosed of other conditions such as hepatitis, gallbladder disease, or idiopathic/thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), which is a bleeding disorder.


The cause of HELLP syndrome is unclear. Although it is more common in women who have preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy), some women develop HELLP syndrome without showing signs of these conditions.                        

The following risk factors may increase a woman’s chance to develop HELLP syndrome:

  • Having a previous pregnancy with HELLP syndrome
  • Having preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Being over age 25
  • Being Caucasian
  • Multiparous (given birth 2 or more times)

In less than 2 percent of women with HELLP syndrome, the underlying cause appears to be related to LCHAD deficiency in the fetus.

A variety of genetic factors (both in the mother and fetus) have been found to play a role in the development of preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. However, the condition is likely multifactorial. This means that several genetic and environmental factors likely interact to cause HELLP syndrome, and no one gene is thought to be responsible for the condition.   

Some women may have a genetic predisposition to developing preeclampsia and related conditions, such as HELLP syndrome. This means that certain genetic factors increase a woman’s risk to develop HELLP syndrome. However, many women with a genetic predisposition will never develop HELLP syndrome.


The most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting that continue to get worse–(This may also feel like a serious case of the flu).
  • Upper right abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Fatigue or malaise
  • Nosebleed
  • Seizures

A woman with HELLP may experience other symptoms that often can be attributed to other things such as normal pregnancy concerns or other pregnancy conditions.

  • Visual disturbances
  • High blood pressure          
  • Protein in urine
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Severe headaches
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop as quickly as usual    


If you have symptoms of HELLP syndrome, talk to your doctor. She’ll do a physical exam and tests to check for things like:

  • High Blood pressure                 
  • Pain in the upper right side of your belly
  • Enlarged Liver                             
  • Swollen legs
  • Liver Function                          
  • Blood platelet count
  • Bleeding into your liver


The main solution for HELLP syndrome is to give birth as soon as possible. This means your baby may have to be born early. The risks are too serious for you and your baby if you stay pregnant with HELLP syndrome.

Treatment may also include:

  • Corticosteroid medicine to help your baby’s lungs develop more quickly
  • Medicine for high blood pressure
  • Meds to prevent seizures
  • Blood transfusion        


There’s no way to prevent HELLP syndrome. Since HELLP syndrome is believed to be related to preeclampsia, staying vigilant about diet, exercise and a healthy blood pressure can only help. The best thing you can do is keep yourself healthy before and during pregnancy and watch for early signs of the condition. The following steps can help:

  • See your doctor regularly for prenatal visits.
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve had any high-risk pregnancies or someone in your family has had HELLP syndrome, preeclampsia, or other blood pressure problems.
  • Know the symptoms and call your doctor ASAP if you have them.   


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.




Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy: What you need to know

Gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM is one of the most common diet-related complications during pregnancy. It only happens during pregnancy. It means you have high blood sugar levels, but those levels were normal before you were pregnant.

In gestation, the placenta produces hormones that help the baby to grow and develop. These hormones also block the action of the insulin, which is the hormone that helps to keep glucose (or blood sugar) at normal levels. This is called insulin resistance. Because of this insulin resistance, the need for insulin in pregnancy is 2 or 3 times higher than normal. If the body is unable to produce this much insulin, gestational diabetes develops.


If you have it, you can still have a healthy baby with help from your doctor and by doing simple things to manage your blood sugar, also called blood glucose.


It is most commonly diagnosed around the third trimester (usually around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy) and in most of the cases goes away once the baby is born. Gestational diabetes makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but it won’t definitely happen.


It affects between 2% and 10% of pregnancies each year. Women who are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes are:

  • Mothers who are over 25 years of age
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Were overweight before you got pregnant
  • Women from certain ethnic backgrounds including Vietnamese, Chinese, middle eastern, Polynesian or Melanesian.
  • Women who have had gestational diabetes
  • Women who have had large babies or obstetric complications
  • Have given birth to a baby that was stillborn or had certain birth defects            
  • A woman who has had a polycystic ovarian syndrome

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

Women with gestational diabetes usually have no symptoms. Most learn they have it during routine pregnancy screening tests.

Rarely, especially if the gestational diabetes is out of control, you may notice: 

  • Feeling more thirsty
  • Feeling more hungry and eating more
  • A need to pee more

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

To treat your gestational diabetes, your doctor will ask you to:

  • Check your blood sugar levels four or more times a day.
  • Do urine tests that check for ketones, which mean that your diabetes is not under control
  • A balanced diet is key to properly managing gestational diabetes. In particular, women with gestational diabetes should pay special attention to their carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake.
  • Eat a healthy diet that’s in line with your doctor’s recommendations
  • Make exercise a habit

Your doctor will track how much weight you gain and let you know if you need to take insulin or other medicine for your gestational diabetes.

Why Is Managing Blood Sugar Especially Important for Pregnant Women With Gestational Diabetes?  

Most women who develop diabetes during pregnancy go on to have a healthy baby. Dietary changes and exercise may be enough to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels under control, though sometimes you may also need to take medication.

But untreated gestational diabetes can cause serious problems. If blood sugar levels remain elevated, too much glucose ends up in the baby’s blood. When that happens, the baby’s pancreas needs to produce more insulin to process the extra sugar.

Too much blood sugar and insulin can make a baby put on extra weight, which is stored as fat. This can make the baby grow very large (macrosomia).

Also, high blood sugar levels during pregnancy and labor increase the risk of a baby developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) after delivery. That’s because the baby’s body produces extra insulin in response to the mother’s excess glucose. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the blood.

The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in an infant include:

  • jitteriness
  • weak or high-pitched cry
  • floppiness
  • lethargy or sleepiness
  • breathing problems
  • skin that looks blue
  • trouble feeding
  • eye rolling
  • Seizures

A baby may also be at higher risk for breathing problems at birth, especially if blood sugar levels aren’t well controlled or the baby is delivered early. (If you have gestational diabetes, your baby’s lungs tend to mature a bit later). The risk of newborn jaundice is higher too.

If your blood sugar control is especially poor, the baby’s heart function could be affected as well, which can contribute to breathing problems. Gestational diabetes sometimes thickens a baby’s heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), causing the baby to breathe rapidly and not be able to get enough oxygen from her blood.

Can gestational diabetes be prevented?

It’s not possible to prevent gestational diabetes entirely. However, adopting healthy habits can reduce your chances of developing the condition. If you’re pregnant and have one of the risk factors for gestational diabetes, try to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Even light activity, such as walking, may be beneficial.

If you’re planning to become pregnant in the near future and you’re overweight, one of the best things you can do is work with your doctor to lose weight. Even losing a small amount of weight can help you reduce your risk of gestational diabetes.


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Pregnancy, Fever, and Autism

Fevers during pregnancy are never normal, so an exam is always recommended. Luckily, if the fever was caused by a viral illness, hydration and Tylenol are usually enough for recovery. But if the cause is bacterial, an antibiotic is often needed. Pregnant women should not take aspirin or ibuprofen.

The next important step is uncovering the cause of the fever. A fever during pregnancy is often a symptom of an underlying condition that could potentially be harmful to your growing baby.

What could be causing my fever during pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your immune system is doing double duty trying to protect both you and baby, so you may be more susceptible to colds and fevers during pregnancy.

When should I go to the doctor with my fever during pregnancy?

If your fever doesn’t go away in 24 to 36 hours, you should see your doctor. Also, you should go to the doctor if you experience any of these signs with your fever: abdominal pain, nausea, contractions or a rash. Your fever could be a symptom of other conditions like cytomegalovirus, flu, cold, food poisoning, HIV/AIDS, IBD, syphilis, toxoplasmosis or varicella.

How will a fever affect my baby?  

If an expectant mother’s body temperature goes from 98.6 degrees to a fever, it’s a sign that she is fighting an infection. That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment right away.

A new study done on animal embryos does show a link between fever early in pregnancy and an increased risk of heart and jaw defects at birth. Further research is needed to establish whether fever itself and not the infection causing it, increases the risk of birth defects in humans.

If you are in your first trimester and have a fever higher than 102 degrees, be sure to seek treatment right away. This may help prevent short- and long-term complications for your developing baby.

Fevers are often caused by urinary tract infections and respiratory viruses, but other infections could also be to blame. Having fever and other infections are very risky for the baby and may cause birth defects. According to one new study involving fever during pregnancy suggests that women who had a fever while pregnant had twice the risk of their baby having autism.

Scientists suspect that aside from a faulty gene or genes might make a person more likely to develop autism when there are also other factors present, such as a chemical imbalance, viruses or chemicals, or a lack of oxygen at birth. In a few cases, an autistic behavior is caused by Rubella (German measles) in the pregnant mother.

One of the most frustrating things about Autism, of course, is that we really don’t know what causes it. Researchers have identified certain risk factors, and many other potential causes have been identified (and left wanting for scientific evidence).

The findings mesh with other research linking diabetes and obesity during pregnancy to a higher risk of having a child with a developmental delay or autism. The two conditions – fever and diabetes – are associated with an inflammatory response in the body that researchers say may injure the developing brain. The study did not show an elevated risk of having a child with autism if mothers had the flu. But a fever from any cause, such as a bacterial infection, during pregnancy, was twice as likely to be described by mothers with children with autism and 2.5 times more likely in mothers of children with developmental delays.

Mothers who took anti-fever medication had the same risk of having a child with autism as mothers who reported no fever, the study found.

The fever study raises the question of whether chemicals the body releases to fight infection, called cytokines, may pass through the placenta and have a damaging effect on the fetus, said Ousseny Zerbo, lead author of the study, who was a doctoral candidate with UC Davis when the study was conducted.

Zerbo said cytokines are produced during acute inflammation that occurs when someone has a fever. The chemicals are also produced steadily in people with diabetes, who have a 2.3 times higher risk of having a child with developmental delays

Don’t worry too much, however, as the chances you’ll be in that situation are slim and a lot more research still needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. Bottom line: Prevention and swift treatment are your best defense against fevers during pregnancy — and any concerns you may have.




The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



Thyroid Disease & Pregnancy

Thyroid disease is a group of disorders that affect the thyroid gland. The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck. It makes hormones responsible for metabolism and brain function, as well as a number of other bodily functions, even the way your heart beats.


Sometimes the thyroid makes too much or too little of these hormones. Too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism and can cause many of your body’s functions to speed up. “Hyper” means the thyroid is overactive. Too little thyroid hormone is called hypothyroidism and can cause many of your body’s functions to slow down. “Hypo” means the thyroid is underactive.


What role do thyroid hormones play in pregnancy?

Thyroid hormones are crucial for the normal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. During the first trimester, the first 3 months of pregnancy, your baby depends on your supply of thyroid hormone, which comes through the placenta. At around 12 weeks, your baby’s thyroid starts to work on its own, but it doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone until 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Two pregnancy-related hormones, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen, cause higher measured thyroid hormone levels in your blood. The thyroid enlarges slightly in healthy women during pregnancy, but usually not enough for a healthcare professional to feel during a physical exam.

Thyroid problems can be hard to diagnose in pregnancy due to higher levels of thyroid hormones and other symptoms that occur in both pregnancy and thyroid disorders. Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism are easier to spot and may prompt your doctor to test you for these thyroid diseases.


Hyperthyroidism in Pregnancy

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in pregnancy?

Some signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism often occur in normal pregnancies, including faster heart rate, trouble dealing with heat, and tiredness.

Other signs and symptoms can suggest hyperthyroidism:

  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Shaky hands
  • Unexplained weight loss or failure to have normal pregnancy weight gain
  • Feeling too hot
  • Increased sweating
  • Trembling hands
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Eye problems, such as irritation or discomfort
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Infertility


What causes hyperthyroidism during pregnancy?

Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is usually caused by Graves’ disease and it’s an autoimmune disorder. With this disease, your immune system makes antibodies that cause the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone. This antibody is called thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin, or TSI.

Graves’ disease may first appear during pregnancy. However, if you already have Graves’ disease, your symptoms could improve in your second and third trimesters. Some parts of your immune system are less active later in pregnancy so your immune system makes less TSI. This may be why the symptoms improve. Graves’ disease often gets worse again in the first few months after your baby is born, when TSI levels go up again. If you have Graves’ disease, your doctor will most likely test your thyroid function monthly throughout your pregnancy and may need to treat your hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormone levels that are too high can harm your health and your baby’s.

How can hyperthyroidism affect me and my baby?

Untreated hyperthyroidism during pregnancy can lead to

  • miscarriage
  • premature birth
  • low birthweight
  • preeclampsia—a dangerous rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy
  • thyroid storm—a sudden, severe worsening of symptoms
  • Congestive heart failure

Rarely, Graves’ disease may also affect a baby’s thyroid, causing it to make too much thyroid hormone. Even if your hyperthyroidism was cured by radioactive iodine treatment to destroy thyroid cells or surgery to remove your thyroid, your body still makes the TSI antibody. When levels of this antibody are high, TSI may travel to your baby’s bloodstream. Just as TSI caused your own thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone, it can also cause your baby’s thyroid to make too much.

An overactive thyroid in a newborn can lead to

  • a fast heart rate, which can lead to heart failure
  • early closing of the soft spot in the baby’s skull
  • poor weight gain
  • Irritability


How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and order blood tests to measure your hormone levels. You have hyperthyroidism when the levels of T4 and T3 are higher than normal and the level of TSH is lower than normal. To determine the type of hyperthyroidism you have, your doctor may do a radioactive iodine uptake test to measure how much iodine your thyroid collects from the bloodstream. The thyroid uses iodine to make T3 and T4. Your doctor may also take a picture of your thyroid (a thyroid scan) to see its shape and size and to see whether there is any nodules present.


How do doctors treat hyperthyroidism during pregnancy?

If you have mild hyperthyroidism during pregnancy, you probably won’t need treatment. If your hyperthyroidism is more severe, your doctor may prescribe antithyroid medicines, which cause your thyroid to make less thyroid hormone. This treatment prevents too much of your thyroid hormone from getting into your baby’s bloodstream. Doctors most often treat pregnant women with the antithyroid medicine propylthiouracil  (PTU) during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Another type of antithyroid medicine, methimazole, is easier to take and has fewer side effects, but is slightly more likely to cause serious birth defects than PTU. Birth defects in either type of medicine are rare. Sometimes doctors switch to methimazole after the first trimester of pregnancy. Some women no longer need antithyroid medicine in the third trimester.


Hypothyroidism in Pregnancy

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism in pregnancy?

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid are often the same for pregnant women as for other people with hypothyroidism. Symptoms include

  • extreme tiredness
  • trouble dealing with cold
  • muscle cramps
  • Severe constipation
  • problems with memory or concentration
  • Weight gain (only 5–10 pounds or 2–4 kg)
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual irregularities

Most cases of hypothyroidism in pregnancy are mild and may not have symptoms.

What causes hypothyroidism during pregnancy?

Hypothyroidism in pregnancy is usually caused by Hashimoto’s disease and occurs in 2 to 3 out of every 100 pregnancies.1 Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder. In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing inflammation and damage that make it less able to make thyroid hormones.

How can hypothyroidism affect me and my baby?

Untreated hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to

  • preeclampsia—a dangerous rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy
  • Anemia
  • miscarriage
  • low birthweight
  • stillbirth
  • Congestive heart failure, rarely

In adults, untreated hypothyroidism leads to poor mental and physical performance. It also can cause high blood cholesterol levels that can lead to heart disease. A life-threatening condition called myxedema coma can develop if severe hypothyroidism is left untreated.

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is especially important in pregnancy. Untreated hypothyroidism in the mother may affect the baby’s growth and brain development.

All babies are tested at birth for hypothyroidism. If not treated promptly, a child with hypothyroidism could have an intellectual disability or fail to grow normally.


 How do doctors treat hypothyroidism during pregnancy?

Treatment for hypothyroidism involves replacing the hormone that your own thyroid can no longer make. Your doctor will most likely prescribe levothyroxine, a thyroid hormone medicine that is the same as T4, one of the hormones the thyroid normally makes. Levothyroxine is safe for your baby and especially important until your baby can make his or her own thyroid hormone.

Your thyroid makes a second type of hormone, T3. Early in pregnancy, T3 can’t enter your baby’s brain like T4 can. Instead, any T3 that your baby’s brain needs is made from T4. T3 is included in a lot of thyroid medicines made with animal thyroid, such as Armour Thyroid, but is not useful for your baby’s brain development. These medicines contain too much T3 and not enough T4, and should not be used during pregnancy. Experts recommend only using levothyroxine (T4) while you’re pregnant.

Some women with subclinical hypothyroidism—a mild form of the disease with no clear symptoms—may not need treatment.

If you had hypothyroidism before you became pregnant and are taking levothyroxine, you will probably need to increase your dose. Most thyroid specialists recommend taking two extra doses of thyroid medicine per week, starting right away. Contact your doctor as soon as you know you’re pregnant.

Your doctor will most likely test your thyroid hormone levels every 4 to 6 weeks for the first half of your pregnancy, and at least once after 30 weeks.1 You may need to adjust your dose a few times.


If you have thyroid problems, you can still have a healthy pregnancy and protect your baby’s health by having regular thyroid function tests and taking any medicines that your doctor prescribes.


Thyroid Disease and Eating During Pregnancy

What should I eat during pregnancy to help keep my thyroid and my baby’s thyroid working well?

Because the thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormone, iodine is an important mineral for you while you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, your baby gets iodine from your diet. You’ll need more iodine when you’re pregnant—about 250 micrograms a day. Good sources of iodine are dairy foods, seafood, eggs, meat, poultry, and iodized salt—salt with added iodine. Experts recommend taking a prenatal vitamin with 150 micrograms of iodine to make sure you’re getting enough, especially if you don’t use iodized salt. You also need more iodine while you’re breastfeeding since your baby gets iodine from breast milk. However, too much iodine from supplements such as seaweed can cause thyroid problems. Talk with your doctor about an eating plan that’s right for you and what supplements you should take.



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