Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where the thyroid is overactive, producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormones. Graves Disease and pregnancy can occur together; in fact when hyperthyroidism is noted during pregnancy, it is mostly caused due to Graves disease.
While Graves disease and pregnancy is not a common occurrence, it is difficult to diagnose, and it is a condition that can mean significant risks for the mother and the baby.
If hyperthyroidism is left untreated or is not sufficiently controlled, particularly in the latter part of pregnancy, it could lead to high blood pressure and preeclampsia, excessive vomiting, and heart problems such as congenital heart failure.
In some rare cases, Graves disease and pregnancy could result in something called ‘thyroid storm’ where blood pressure and pulse rate go so high as to become life threatening.
As for the baby, Graves disease and pregnancy left untreated could mean premature birth or low birth weight. It could also mean a late miscarriage or a still born or it could result in growth retardation for the baby within the mother’s womb.
The usual symptoms that warn of Graves disease during pregnancy are –
- In most cases of Graves disease and pregnancy an enlargement of the glands in the neck (goiter) are seen.
- It could be that the pregnant woman is eating properly and is seen to have a healthy appetite or even a larger than normal appetite but is failing to gain weight as required.
- A condition referred to as Tachycardia where the pulse rate is high; over 100 beats a minute could be an indication of Graves disease and pregnancy.
- Irregular heartbeats, chest palpitations, high blood pressure could also be the warning signs.
- Excessive vomiting.
- Moodiness, nervous behavior, unexplained anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, restlessness, and feelings of unexplained tiredness could also be the symptoms.
- Tremors or weakness in the limbs and pain in the extremities could also be caused by Graves disease and pregnancy.
- Sometimes vision problems such as blurry vision, or seeing double (opthalmopathy) may also be noted.
- Visibly protruding eyes could also occur as a result of Graves disease.
The problem of correct diagnosis can be a tricky one when it comes to Graves disease and pregnancy – many of the symptoms mentioned above could be explained away as occurring in the normal course of pregnancy. For instance many women report to feeling wooly headed and forgetful during pregnancy – a condition often called ‘Baby Brain’.
Excessive vomiting in pregnancy could also be caused by other conditions. So early diagnosis and quick control of Graves disease and pregnancy is of the utmost importance.