Pregnancy is one of the most significant women’s health topics – we spend our teens and early 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and many of us spend our 30’s and early 40’s trying to get pregnant. And once a woman is pregnant, we want to ensure a healthy pregnancy with the outcome of a happy, healthy baby.
Lack of Lab Testing
In Ontario, where I run my women’s health practice, the standard of care is for women to receive only very basic testing when they discover they are pregnant. Women are screened for sexually transmitted illnesses (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), public health testing (rubella), blood type and Rh factor. But few women are screened for one of the most common, and preventable, causes of miscarriage – one that can be easily identified and often has no symptoms.
The one test I insist all women in my practice have at the first sign of pregnancy is a comprehensive thyroid panel. The thyroid gland, sitting in your throat near your voice box, is one of the most important hormone producing gland in your body. Thyroid hormones are essential for metabolism – creating energy in our cells to meet the demands of our body. In pregnancy we need to be able to make a lot of energy – making a whole new human is hard work!
In pregnancy our requirements for thyroid hormones increase – and if our body isn’t able to meet that demand, the result can be early pregnancy loss (miscarriage). We can identify women who may be at risk for this by running a simple TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and treating women who fall outside the normal range with thyroid replacement hormones during pregnancy.
But TSH isn’t the only important thyroid test for a pregnant woman. Testing thyroid antibodies, especially anti TPO antibody is also essential for preventing miscarriage. Thyroid autoimmune disease is the most common autoimmune disease in women who are in their childbearing years – impacting up to 15% of women. Many of these women have no symptoms of thyroid disease and their TSH levels are totally normal.
Having TPO antibodies however, is a major risk factor for miscarriage. There is a strong association with TPO antibodies and miscarriage, preterm delivery, and other negative outcomes in pregnancy (such as low birth weight and smaller head circumference).
Despite all the evidence, known to doctors since the 1990s, comprehensive thyroid testing still isn’t available as a screening test for most women in early pregnancy. But that shouldn’t stop you from seeking it out. Available from your Naturopathic Doctor for under a hundred dollars, this test could make all the difference in your pregnancy. And since this cause of miscarriage is completely treatable, I encourage you to have the test done as soon as possible after you discover you are pregnant. Miscarriage is all too common already, I don’t want any more women to have miscarriages that could be prevented.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.