Like Hashimoto's disease, having Graves' disease can raise your risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families. Having one condition puts you at risk for others.
Although the majority of people with Graves' disease will not develop any other disorders, it's important to know what some of these autoimmune conditions are in case you do start to experience symptoms. Keep in mind, too, that you may be more likely to develop Graves' disease if you have one of these other conditions. (See Chapter 6 for a more thorough discussion of these conditions.)
Having Graves' disease can also make it hard for women to get pregnant. You may not even be ovulating. In addition, it puts you at risk for having a baby with birth defects. It also increases the likelihood for miscarriage and premature labor and delivery.
If you have Graves' disease and you want to get pregnant, it's best to wait until the condition is under control before attempting to conceive. Trying to treat Graves' during pregnancy can be difficult, and some treatments, such as RAI, are potentially harmful to the fetus.
If, however, you develop Graves' disease while you are pregnant, you will need to consult with both an endocrinologist and your obstetrician- gynecologist to devise a safe treatment plan. Many women with hyperthyroidism wind up taking low doses of propylthiouracil (PTU), without causing harm to their baby. Doses that are too high can cause goiter and hypothyroidism in your baby.
The natural tendency of the immune system in pregnancy is to become less active, so that the developing fetus is not rejected. For a woman with Graves' disease, this slowdown of the immune system can provide a welcome, albeit temporary, reprieve. We'll take a closer look at pregnancy and your thyroid in Chapter 14.