Can You Have a Healthy Pregnancy With Thyroid Problems? Thyroid Health, Nutrition, Fertility, and Pregnancy

The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland in our necks. This small organ is the engine of our bodies, producing Triiodothyronine, also known as T3, Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine or T4, and Calcitonin. These hormones are our bodies’ control center, regulating our metabolism.

Thyroid health is a big deal.

When our thyroids are not functioning, and when thyroid disease isn’t managed, this can affect fertility. Likewise, untreated thyroid problems can put both the mother and baby at risk for a number of complications during pregnancy, labor, and after birth.

Enjoying a healthy pregnancy with thyroid problems is possible, and even common! You can manage thyroid problems with care from your ObGyn, primary care physician, and the support of a dietitian nutritionist. Why work with an RDN? Thyroids are highly nutrient-dependent. This is good news!

So, what do you need to know about the link between nutrition and hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimotos, and Graves’ disease? 

Reach a healthy weight. Many people with hypothyroidism experience sudden weight gain and struggle to get it off. With your dietitian nutritionist, set realistic weight loss goals and get on track to feeling healthier with sustainable diet and lifestyle changes. 

Know the key nutrients and vitamins that affect thyroid health:

Iodine: Iodine is an essential mineral. This means the body doesn’t make it but needs to consume it to get it. Iodine is important for your body, especially for your thyroid gland. Most people in the United States get enough iodine in their diets (from iodized salt and milk), with a possible exception of women of childbearing age. Beware of supplements, as too much or too little can be dangerous. Foods high in iodine include seaweed, shellfish and fish, iodized salt, milk products, eggs, beef liver, and chicken. And some foods interfere with the absorption of iodine, like cruciferous veggies (see below!).  

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another essential vitamin, and its deficiency has been linked to Hashimotos, Graves’, and other thyroid conditions. Foods that contain vitamin D include fatty fish, milk, dairy, eggs, and mushrooms. Get enough sun (using sunscreen), and talk to your primary care physician about taking a supplement.

Selenium: Selenium is an essential mineral that is most concentrated in the thyroid gland. It plays a crucial role in the function of enzymes that are essential for proper thyroid function, the immune system, cognitive function, and fertility in both men and women. Foods high in selenium include pork, beef, chicken, shellfish, eggs, fish, and some nuts (like Brazil nuts). 

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in many aspects of human health, including proper brain function, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. While there is not a direct link between vitamin B12 and thyroid health, recent studies have suggested that a deficiency in vitamin B12 may contribute to thyroid dysfunction, including autoimmune thyroid disease and hypothyroidism. Good food sources of vitamin B12 include animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement their diets with vitamin B12 to ensure adequate intake. Some fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast, are also good sources of vitamin B12.

Running interference. Some foods are goitrogens. This means that when they are broken down, they release a compound called goitren, which can interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Such foods include cruciferous vegetables and soy. This is usually only a problem if someone has an iodine deficiency, which most people do not experience in the United States. (So, yes, please eat your broccoli!)

Here are a few takeaways:

1. You can have a healthy pregnancy with thyroid disease.

2. If you suspect you have thyroid issues, get tested. It’s quick and easy.

3. Get your thyroid disease under control. This is usually a combination of medication and diet.

4. Develop an individualized diet plan with a thyroid dietitian nutritionist to reach a healthy weight, optimize fertility, and reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy, labor, and after birth. 

Great Resources:
Thyroid Disease and Diet — Nutrition Plays a Part in Maintaining Thyroid Health

By Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 14 No. 7 P. 40