Touching Lives - March 2013
Thyroid screening during pregnancy
Estimates suggest that around one in 20 women has a mild problem with their thyroid gland, called subclinical hypothyroidism. It’s not known how this could affect the long-term health of a woman’s baby if she has this disorder during pregnancy, so researchers are investigating this.
According to lead researcher Professor Marian Ludgate of Cardiff University, some evidence shows that children born to mothers with hypothyroidism are at increased risk of having a low IQ as well as various emotional and behavioural problems.
Mild thyroid problems can be treated with hormone replacement therapy, which is safe and inexpensive.
“However, pregnant women in the UK are not routinely screened for thyroid problems,” explains Professor Ludgate. “It is possible that their babies might be suffering long-term consequences unnecessarily.”
In this project, Professor Ludgate is looking into whether routine screening and treatment of pregnant women for these thyroid problems could benefit their children. A group of 900 women, who previously took part in a study while pregnant, are involved in this new project, alongside their children who are now eight to 10 years old.
The project uses a range of tests to assess the children’s IQ, behaviour, coordination and social skills. This information will be used with other investigations into the physical development of the children.
“We are confident that this combined approach will provide invaluable insight as to the potential benefits of thyroid screening in pregnancy – and tell us whether such screening should be offered as a matter of routine to all pregnant women – in the UK and worldwide,” says Professor Ludgate. This project is funded by a generous donation from The Henry Smith Charity.