Graves' disease is a common autoimmune disorder in women in fertile ages. The hyperthyroidism is causedby generation of TSH-receptor activating antibodies. In pregnancy both the antibodies and the antithyroid medication given to the mother pass the placenta and affect the foetal thyroid gland. Thyroid function should be controlled not only in the mother with Graves' hyperthyroidism but also in her foetus.The review includes two cases illustrating some of the problems in managing Graves' disease in pregnancy.
Major threats to optimal foetal thyroid function are inadequate or over aggressive antithyroid drug therapy of the mother. It should be taken into account that antithyroid drugs tend to block the foetal thyroid function more effectively than the maternal thyroid function, and that levothyroxin (l-T4) given to the mother will have only a limited effect in the foetus.
Surgical thyroidectomy of patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism does not lead to immediate remission of the autoimmune abnormality, and the combination thyroidectomy+withdrawal of antithyroid medication+l-T4 replacement of the mother involves a high risk of foetal hyperthyroidism.
Antithyroid drug therapy of pregnant women with Graves' hyperthyroidism should be balanced to control both maternal and foetal thyroid function. Surgical thyroidectomy of a pregnant woman with active disease may lead to isolated foetal hyperthyroidism.