If you're pregnant and have Graves' disease, discuss treatments and risks with your healthcare provider. Learn more about Graves' disease and pregnancy. Graves' disease is a condition that involves too much thyroid hormone, which is produced by an overactive thyroid gland. This is called hyperthyroidism.During pregnancy, untreated hyperthyroidism may lead to life-threatening complications for you
During pregnancy, untreated hyperthyroidism may lead to life-threatening complications for you and your baby. Graves' disease is the most common type of pregnancy-related hyperthyroidism.
Graves’ disease can run in families. Anyone can get it, but it most often develops in biological females under 40—in other words, during potential childbearing years. It sometimes comes on during pregnancy. But you can have a successful pregnancy with Graves' disease.
This article looks at what Graves’ disease is, fertility and pregnancy risks, how it’s diagnosed and treated, and how to avoid possible complications.
Despite being the most common cause of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy, Graves’ disease is still fairly uncommon. It only affects 0.2% of pregnant women.
In Graves’ disease, researchers suspect an antibody directly triggers excess thyroid hormone production. That leads to problems with hormone balance.
When Graves’ disease comes on outside of pregnancy, it can cause fertility problems regardless of your biological sex. It can cause:
Fortunately, treatment often restores fertility.
When you have too much thyroid hormone, it speeds up a lot of processes and changes the way your body deals with energy and growth. Common symptoms include:
During pregnancy, your baby may be exposed to high levels of thyroid hormone. This can cause a goiter in the unborn baby.
If you have Graves’ disease before pregnancy, immune-system fluctuations may worsen symptoms early, then improve in the second and third trimesters. Symptoms may worsen again after delivery as your immune function returns.
During pregnancy, your thyroid hormone levels naturally increase. The thyroid gland may get a little bigger but not enough to cause a goiter.
In some people, though, immune-system changes trigger hyperthyroidism. This causes levels that are higher than what's normal during pregnancy.
Researchers aren’t sure why Graves’ disease develops in some pregnancies and not in others.
Graves’ disease is diagnosed the same whether it’s during pregnancy or not. Healthcare providers look at:
Because Graves’ symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, your healthcare provider may also run additional tests.
A common treatment for hyperthyroidism is radioactive iodine, which damages overactive thyroid cells so they produce less. However, this treatment isn’t safe for your baby, so it’s not used during pregnancy.
Treatments that are used during pregnancy include:
The goal of treatment for Graves' disease is to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels.
Before getting pregnant with Graves' disease, you should discuss any needed treatment changes with your healthcare provider. Ideally, you should switch treatments and get the disease stable before conceiving.
Realistically, though, pregnancy can come as a surprise. If that’s the case, be sure to let your healthcare provider know as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. Don’t discontinue treatments without first talking to a healthcare provider.
Successful treatment generally prevents serious pregnancy complications from Graves’ disease. If it’s not well treated or left untreated, you may develop:
Several possible problems can affect your baby, including:
These problems are rare with proper treatment. To avoid them, be sure to discuss any new, changing, or worsening symptoms with your healthcare provider.
Graves’ disease is the most common type of hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. It involves a misfiring immune system that increases thyroid hormone levels. This speeds up many bodily processes.
Untreated Graves’ disease can be dangerous or catastrophic for you and your unborn child. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial for a good outcome.
Considering pregnancy with Graves’ disease can be frightening. So is finding out you have Graves’ during pregnancy. Good treatments are readily available, though, and they can protect you and your child from possible complications. Being alert to symptoms and sticking with your treatment plan is key.
The antibody that causes Graves’ disease can get into your baby’s bloodstream and cause high hormone levels. If you have high antibody levels, your healthcare provider can monitor your baby’s thyroid hormones.
Yes, if Graves' disease is well managed. It's best to talk to your healthcare provider before you get pregnant, change medications if needed, and make sure your disease is stable before you conceive.