No matter how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant, or how elated you may be, when you first see that little blue line or plus on a pregnancy test, it can be REALLY overwhelming.
There’s so much to learn and so many preparations to make, not to mention all the major changes that start happening to your body right away: nausea, exhaustion, brain fog—welcome to the first trimester!
You probably already know that these initial changes are due to the flood of hormones that your body begins producing when you conceive, and that they can wreak havoc on your emotions, your energy level, and your brain function. But did you know that they can also wreak havoc on your thyroid? Whether you’re pregnant now or plan to become soon, there are a few things you need to know about how your pregnancy can affect your thyroid function, and therefore the health of you and your baby.
Pregnancy puts a whole bunch of added stress on your thyroid. It will need to produce more thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) in order to meet your body’s increased metabolic needs—that’s a fancy way of saying that your thyroid will have to work harder to help your body convert nutrients into energy, both for you, and for your growing baby, who will need a TON of energy to grow and develop. (If you want to know exactly how your thyroid functions, this post explains the process in detail).
Plus, if you’ve had thyroid problems in the past, being pregnant can make those problems even worse. And if you’ve never had your thyroid tested, you may not even know your thyroid isn’t functioning properly. Unfortunately, many women are not tested for thyroid problems early in pregnancy, and potential thyroid issues can easily be mistaken for general pregnancy woes.
So what can you do?
First, the basics. There are two types of thyroid malfunction: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyper means overactive (think of your thyroid as an over-excited cheerleader). Hypo means underactive (think of your thyroid as the stoner who skips class).
If you experience hyperthyroidism (over-excited cheerleader thyroid, also known as Graves Disease, which you can read more about in this post), you might have the following symptoms:
If you experience hypothyroidism (underactive stoner thyroid, diagnosed as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis if you have an autoimmune component, which you can read more about in this post) you might have the following symptoms:
See how easily these symptoms can be mistaken for regular old pregnancy symptoms?
And if you do end up with untreated thyroid problems, it can result in some pretty scary pregnancy complications. First trimester miscarriage, preeclampsia, hypertension in pregnancy, preterm delivery, increased rate of C-section births, postpartum hemorrhage and impaired development in babies are all risks associated with thyroid malfunction.
While it’s true that every woman experiences pregnancy differently, the similarities between thyroid malfunction and ordinary pregnancy symptoms mean that it’s especially crucial to have your doctor test your thyroid levels BEFORE you conceive or early on in your pregnancy. If identified early, there are plenty of ways to treat thyroid issues, and if you’re armed with knowledge, it’s an easy problem to address!
If you haven’t had your thyroid tested already, ask your doctor to test you now. Thyroid testing is not routinely done on pregnant woman and absolutely should be, even if they haven’t been previously diagnosed.
And even if your thyroid is healthy, your doctor should continue to test you at regular intervals during your pregnancy to make sure your thyroid continues to perform optimally. Your pregnancy is going to demand more and more from your thyroid as you progress through each trimester, and repeated testing will help avoid any unnecessary complications down the line.
I recommend requesting a full thyroid panel, including including TSH, free T4, free T3, TPO antibodies, antithyroglobulin antibodies, and reverse T3 (for more information about why the full panel is necessary, read through this post).
The good news is that in 2017, the American Thyroid Association updated its “Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum,” which they had initially published in Thyroid Journal in 2011. This is a good place to go for additional information to educate yourself about testing and diagnosis.
Even if your thyroid is in tip-top shape, remember that pregnancy is going to majorly stress it out, so adding supplements and eating foods that make your thyroid happy will ensure you and your baby thrive during your entire pregnancy, and will also reduce the risk of complications during birth.
Before adding any of these supplements to your daily regimen, make sure to talk it over with your OBGYN.
Start with a quality prenatal vitamin! My number one recommendation is the Prenatal Pro Essential Packets. These all-in-one prenatal packets contain potent levels of all necessary vitamins and minerals that play a part in the intricate processes of pregnancy, as well as various nutrients specific to thyroid function, including your prenatal multivitamin, a broad-spectrum multimineral and a high quality omega-3 fish oil. They also include:
Before I get into what you should be eating to properly support your thyroid health during pregnancy, a caveat: pregnancy does strange things to your tastes and appetite. Some women don’t experience cravings or nausea at all, others find they can hardly eat without throwing up. So keep in mind that while you may not always be able to stick to a strict diet, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have access to healthy and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks. This will help you avoid reaching for processed convenience food when you’re tired and hungry.
In addition to the well-known standard foods pregnant women should avoid (like alcohol, caffeine, processed meats, etc.) you’ll want to also eliminate the following from your diet: gluten and refined grains, dairy, corn, soy, industrial vegetable oils, sugars and sweeteners, and all processed, refined, and genetically modified foods.
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid condition such as Grave’s or Hashimoto’s, I also recommend avoiding legumes and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, and goji berries). To learn more about the specifics of the Autoimmune Protocol, consider scheduling a 1:1 consult with me.
At this point you may be wondering what you CAN eat! Don’t worry—there are plenty of delicious foods that are thyroid-friendly.
You’ll want to stick to whole, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods: wild-caught fish and seafood, grass-fed and grass-finished meats, healthy fats and oils, a rainbow of vegetables and starches, fermented foods, bone broth, and plenty of filtered water should be on your weekly shopping list.
Here’s an example of what your meals should look like:
Making big changes to your diet can be difficult, especially when you’re already more fatigued than usual and your appetite is off-kilter, but having access to the above foods and incorporating as many of them into your meals as often as possible will do wonders for your thyroid, and therefore for you and your baby too!
Sleep is always crucial for good health, and this is even more true during pregnancy. During the first trimester, you may find yourself wanting to sleep more often, and this is a great time to incorporate naps if you have the time. Later on in your pregnancy, you may find that you need to make some adjustments to your sleeping position in order to get a good night’s rest, such as propping yourself up rather than lying down flat, and supporting your growing belly with a few extra pillows. Here are some additional tips that can help ensure you get a full night of restful, restorative sleep:
Everyone will tell you to avoid stress when pregnant, and I know that can be easier said than done. The most important thing you can do is listen to your body, advocate for yourself (sometimes thinking of it as advocating for your baby as well can help) and take time to pamper yourself as often as you can. Prenatal yoga, nature walks, meditation, and massage are all good ways to de-stress. Even if you only have ten minutes a day, practice slow, measured breathing, and imagine your baby growing and thriving. This may be one of the most important things you can do to optimize your thyroid health during pregnancy.
If you’ve been on thyroid medication in the past, there’s a good chance your doctor will need to increase your dosage during pregnancy. I recommend using Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) hormone replacement such as WP Thyroid rather than synthetic thyroid meds such as Synthroid whenever possible, but every woman is different. If you find you do better on synthetic medications, ask your doctor to prescribe Tirosint instead of Synthroid as it’s free of all the nasty fillers and preservatives found in Synthroid. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the best option for you, your body, and your baby.
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Are you pregnant now, or trying, and concerned about your thyroid?
Have you had thyroid issues in the past?
If you’re pregnant, has your doctor tested your thyroid, and what were the results?
Spread some Thyroid Health lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
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