Is thyroid inadequacy during gestation a risk factor for adverse pregnancy and developmental outcomes?

Stephen H. LaFranchi, James E. Haddow, Joseph G. Hollowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


A workshop entitled, "The Impact of Maternal Thyroid Diseases on the Developing Fetus: Implications for Diagnosis, Treatment, and Screening," was held in Atlanta, Georgia, January 12-13, 2004. This paper reports on the individual session that examined thyroid inadequacy during gestation as a risk factor for adverse pregnancy and developmental outcomes. For this session the following papers were presented: "Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes"; "Thyroid Physiology in the Fetus"; "New England Data: Cretinism Revisited-Preventing Fetal Brain Damage when Mothers Have Subclinical Hypothyroidism"; "Dutch Data: Pregnancy, Maternal Thyroid (Dys)function and Outcome of the Offspring"; and "Report on the Wales Controlled Antenatal Thyroid Screening Study (CATS); A Prospective RCT." These presentations were formally discussed by invited respondents well as others in attendance. Salient points from this session about which there was agreement include the following. Maternal hypothyroidism is associated with complications of pregnancy and adverse effects on the fetus. These risks are greater in women with overt hypothyroidism compared to subclinical hypothyroidism, and also appear to be increased in women with euthyroid autoimmune thyroid disease. If maternal hypothyroidism is treated adequately, this appears to reduce the risk for adverse outcomes. The demonstration of a pattern of ontogeny of fetal cerebral cortex deiodinases and thyroid hormone receptors, beginning by 7-8 weeks' gestation, is circumstantial evidence that thyroid hormone plays an important role in fetal neurodevelopment. Significant fetal thyroid hormone production and secretion does not begin until approximately 20 weeks' gestation. If there is a significant role for thyroid hormone in fetal neurodevelopment before 20 weeks' gestation, it likely is of maternal origin. Studies demonstrate low levels of thyroxine in the fetal coelomic fluid and blood prior to 12-14 weeks' gestation. Published data consistently document a relationship between maternal thyroid deficiency during pregnancy and problems with neuropsychological development of the offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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