Background: The thyroidal response of pregnant patients with established Hashimoto's thyroiditis remains poorly described. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of pregnancy on Hashimoto's thyroiditis as revealed by changes in postpregnancy levothyroxine requirements.
Methods: We performed a retrospective study of 799 hypothyroid patients in a university hospital. We reviewed the clinical records and selected a group of well-documented pregnant (n = 34) and nonpregnant (n = 32) hypothyroid women for study. We reviewed levothyroxine intake and serum thyrotropin (TSH) levels during three consecutive 9-month time intervals that were immediately before, during, and after pregnancy. We compared the percent change in levothyroxine dose between the prepregnancy level and each trimester during and after pregnancy.
Results: There were two patterns of levothyroxine supplementation during gestation. In pattern 1 (n = 11) there was either no change or a single levothyroxine dose increase with no subsequent changes in each trimester (T1 = T2 = T3). In pattern 2 (n = 18), multistep levothyroxine dose increases were required throughout pregnancy (T1 < T2 < T3) to maintain desired TSH levels (<2.0 mU/L). Women with pattern 2 had mean TSH levels during gestation that differed significantly from pattern 1 (2.8 +/- 0.5 vs. 1.3 +/- 0.1 mU/L respectively; p < 0.03). Further, in multivariate logistic regression, women with pattern 2 were 62 times more likely than women with pattern 1 to have a levothyroxine dose at least 20% above baseline at 3 months postpartum (p = 0.04).
Conclusions: We showed that >50% of hypothyroid women with Hashimoto's thyroiditis experienced an increase in levothyroxine requirements in the postpartum compared to pregestational doses. This pattern of enhanced levothyroxine need was most likely dependent on the preexisting thyroid functional reserve and postpartum progression of autoimmune destruction.