11 Signs and Symptoms of Graves’ Disease During Pregnancy


Graves’ disease refers to a combination of symptoms that affect different body parts, especially the thyroid. Doctors refer it as an autoimmune disorder because it is the body that attacks itself and not any virus or bacteria. Under Graves’ disease, the immune system makes the thyroid overactive thus releasing more hormones than required. This condition is referred as hyperthyroid in common language.

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11 Signs and Symptoms of Graves’ Disease

It can be hard to identify the signs and symptoms of the Graves’ disease. This is because they are quite similar to what are experienced during normal pregnancy. Anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia – common symptoms of pregnancy – are also the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Adding further, neck enlargement (goiter) is common among all pregnant women with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease. This is because the gland generally gets enlarged to two to four times of its normal size.

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Some other symptoms that are seen to characterize Graves’ disease are listed ahead.


Graves’ Disease

  1. Irregular heart rates (arrhythmias) along with atrial fibrillation
  2. Trouble Sleeping
  3. Weight Loss or failure to gain weight during pregnancy in spite of normal or increased appetite
  4. Fatigue
  5. Frequent Bowel Movements
  6. Hand Palpitations or Tachycardia (wherein the pulse rate is over 100)
  7. Irritability
  8. Heat Sensitivity and Increased Sweating
  9. Rapid Heartbeat
  10. Reddening of Skin
  11. High heart rate in the baby, including protrusion or stare of the eyes, double-vision, blurred vision, etc., also referred as opthalmopathy.

Because women can experience numerous different symptoms during pregnancy, it might get difficult to diagnose hyperthyroidism signs and symptoms as compared to normal play symptoms. However, two major symptoms should be taken seriously. These include rapid pulse rate and unexplained weight loss for these symptoms are not common during pregnancy. Both these symptoms point towards hyperthyroidism.

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Diagnosing Graves disease in Pregnancy

If you notice any of the aforesaid symptoms, it is recommended to consult your healthcare provider and tell him/her about these symptoms. You will be recommended to go for a physical exam and a blood test to measure the amount if thyroid hormone.

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More about Graves Disease

As stated above, Graves’ disease is a condition wherein the thyroid gland secretes excessive thyroid hormone. This is the main reason for hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. Usually, this disease occurs among young to middle-aged women and tends to be hereditary. The treatments for Graves’ disease aim at maintaining normal levels of thyroid hormone level. However, the most common complication associated with Graves’ disease is preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure during pregnancy.


Causes of Graves Disease during Pregnancy

Usually, a healthy thyroid gland works completely normal during pregnancy. However, 1% women can have an overactive thyroid during pregnancy. Graves’ disease is usually related to the body’s immune system. As per research, it is caused by an antibody that triggers the thyroid gland to secrete excessive thyroid hormone.

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Health Effects of Graves Disease on Baby

If not treated in time, Graves’ disease during pregnancy can impose serious health issues for the baby. Therefore, it is extremely important to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of thyroid problems, low birth weight, brain development issues, and preterm birth.

In addition, it also increases the risk of preeclampsia, miscarriage, or placental abruption. Furthermore, being an autoimmune disorder, the antibodies responsible for the condition get to travel through the placenta and affect the baby. Some of the major risks to the baby in case of untreated Graves’ disease in a mother include:

  • Hyperthyroidism in the newborn or the fetus
  • Miscarriage
  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Low birth weight
  • Prematurity
  • Still birth

Here are some of the ways in which hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease affects the mother in numerous ways. It can increase the risk of various complications, including high blood pressure, heart problems, preeclampsia, extreme morning sickness, congestive heart failure. Furthermore, untreated hyperthyroidism can even lead to a life-threatening condition, commonly referred as thyroid storm, in which blood pressure and heart rate rise uncontrollably. Thyroid storm can be triggered by labor and during the time of delivery if hyperthyroidism in later stages of pregnancy is left untreated.