I have been asked if I had Addison's Disease when I was pregnant. Since Addison's Disease is a common term for primary adrenal insufficiency, it is a matter of degree. I had not gotten to the point where I had an adrenal crisis, but my adrenal glands were not functioning well and my cortisone production was probably low. Each pregnancy I became more ill and recovered less. I was extremely fatigued, weak, and very nauseous the entire time I was pregnant. This woman wanted to know how to tell the difference between being pregnant and approaching adrenal crisis.
That is a very serious question. I think with me it was both- I had more symptoms from pregnancy because my adrenal glands were not able to give me the support my body needed with the increased demands of pregnancy, and I was having symptoms from low adrenal.
Both pregnancy and Addison's Disease (or low adrenal function) can make you very tired. Usually, in pregnancy you start to feel better after a few months. I felt more and more tired as the stress of pregnancy continued. With pregnancy I felt more sleepy and just tired, while I felt more a sense of terrible deep fatigue with low adrenal. I had trouble lifting my arms or even blinking. It was a tiredness that went all through me.
With Addison's disease you could also have severe muscle weakness. At times my knees buckled and I couldn't hold onto a glass. In pregnancy you often feel very tired especially the first few months, but shouldn't have the muscle weakness.
Both pregnancy and Addison's Disease can make you feel nauseous, lose appetite, and vomit. In pregnancy this is fairly normal for the first few months. If it is severe or continues, you may become dehydrated and malnourished and may need to be hospitalized for a time. .With Addison's if you are vomiting you had better be headed to the hospital already or taking medicine for you are having a crisis. How can you tell the difference when you suddenly vomit? Usually, in pregnancy holding still or eating something such as a soda cracker will help. In an adrenal crisis food is not going to help. You will also have other symptoms of crisis (going into shock) such as your blood pressure dropping (dizzy), feeling very cold especially your feet (temperature dropping), headache, and a rosy face (increased pigmentation).
In pregnancy you can have mild practicing contractions. They feel more like a tightness. In Addison's it felt more like sharper pains which moved around my abdominal area and lower back.
In both pregnancy and in low adrenal function you can have some sudden mood swings. In pregnancy women; suddenly find themselves in tears due to hormonal changes. With low adrenal you can become very depressed and irritable. It happens more gradually and stays until you get your adrenal hormones back in balance.
Addisonians crave salt if their mineral balance is off. They only crave high salt foods such as chips. In pregnancy hormonal changes can make you crave a food one day and gag on it the next. It may change day to day.
This is common in pregnancy, and later on there simply isn't much room to hold much in a bladder. With Addison's disease increased urination means that your minerals are out of balance. You will be craving salt and drinking gallons of water.
Hormonal changes can cause constipation in both pregnancy and in low adrenal function. In Addison's it often switches back and forth from constipation to diarrhea.
Blood vessels can dilate and cause light hotheadedness in both pregnancy and low adrenal.
ONLY IN PREGNANCY
Slight vaginal bleeding and tender swollen breasts.
ONLY IN ADDISON'S DISEASE (low adrenal)
Diarrhea, sweating, headaches (can have in pregnancy but not constant), depression (could be in pregnancy but not common); crave salt, Hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin (I turn a rose color), weakness, low blood sugar, and chest pains
How to tell if you are going into an Adrenal Crisis
Just one symptom such as dizziness, nauseous, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, increased urination, or constipation will not indicate an Addison Crisis. An adrenal crisis means you are going into shock. It is a combination of symptoms - (will have several but maybe not all- I had them all)
Shaky, chills, achy, diarrhea, anxious, sleepy, tired, mild weakness, mild nauseousness, face turns pink
Later (get help fast!)
Abdominal pain, Confusion or coma, Dehydration, Dizziness or light-headedness,
Low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rapid respiratory rate,
Fatigue, abdominal and back pain, Headache, High fever, Loss of appetite
Nausea, Profound weakness, Slow sluggish movement
Unusual and excessive sweating on face or palms, Vomiting
If you are pregnant and have low adrenal problems, you will need to closely monitor your symptoms and consult often with your doctor. Check your blood sugar and blood pressure at least daily and anytime you are feeling worse. You will probably need more rest and less stress than you did before you were pregnant.