Check Thyroid in Pregnant Woman?

By The | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), January 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

Check Thyroid in Pregnant Woman?


The, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


WASHINGTON - Check-ups during pregnancy tend to focus around the waist. But there's growing debate about which mothers-to-be should have a gland in their neck tested, too.

Numerous studies since 1999 have found that an underactive thyroid can raise a woman's risk of miscarriage, premature birth or a lower IQ for her baby - even if it's so mildly sluggish that she feels no symptoms.

The problem: While serious cases are treated with a hormone pill, so far there's little evidence that treating the milder cases makes a difference. So guidelines about who should be tested vary widely.

A peek at prenatal testing from one of the largest medical labs suggests that nearly a quarter of pregnant women are getting the simple thyroid blood test regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Researchers at Quest Diagnostics examined records for a half- million pregnant women. Of those who got tested, a higher-than- expected number - 15 percent - had an underactive thyroid. That's five-fold higher than some previous estimates.

The vast majority of those women were in the gray zone, with milder cases where no one knows for sure if a diagnosis helps or wastes money on testing and thyroid medication.

Thyroid problems increase with age, but they affect far more women than men - and pregnancy puts extra stress on the gland. Having enough thyroid hormones is important for fetal brain development, especially during the first trimester.

Mothers also might harbor immune system cells called antibodies that subtly attack the gland and likewise are linked to miscarriage and prematurity. Italian researchers found that treating those women lowered their risk of encountering this problem.

There is broad agreement that women with overt hypothyroidism - a seriously underactive gland - should be treated. But it takes blood testing to diagnose overt disease because of vague symptoms.

The unassuming thyroid plays a big role in good health for everyone. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism and can affect almost every type of tissue in the body.

About 20 million Americans are estimated to have a malfunctioning thyroid that, if serious enough, can contribute to heart disease, bone-thinning osteoporosis and infertility. …

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