Congenital hypothyroidism and your future child's health

Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is a deficiency in thyroid hormone production from the moment a child is born. This disorder can be caused by nutritional deficiencies or excesses or other conditions such as thyroid dysgenesis; a partially or fully incomplete development of the thyroid. Unfortunately, it affects more than 1 in 4,000 infants. The thing about CH is that symptoms are often subtle or non-existent at the time of birth because the child often receives thyroid hormone from his or her mother. That means that around that time, there is no real way to tell whether the abnormality is present or not. Scary right? During the child’s first examination, physical symptoms usually include an enlargement of the tongue, cold skin, and an umbilical hernia. If the condition is left undiagnosed or diagnosed too late, your child could suffer from spasticity, difficulties walking properly, dysarthria, and varying degrees of mental disability. He or she may also suffer from low self-esteem and depression, even after undergoing treatment for the condition. These factors often result in impaired quality of life, making CH patients undergo counseling in addition to adolescent thyroid treatment.  

The good news is that when CH is detected and treated early enough, there is a strong chance of normal mental development.

    Treatment usually involves levothyroxine treatment, similar to the treatment of normal hypothyroidism in adults. Unfortunately, there are cases when even CH patients who are diagnosed with the condition early and undergo appropriate treatment still suffer from long-term health and mental effects. This usually applies to the most extreme cases of thyroid dysgenesis when the child’s thyroid does not develop at all.    

Here are several factors that affect the likelihood of the occurrence of congenital hypothyroidism:

  • Iodine deficiency - Because up until birth your fetus depends on your thyroid’s production of thyroid hormone for it to develop its own thyroid, it is no surprise that a future mother’s deficiency in iodine, an essential micronutrient for thyroid hormone production, can cause CH. Research from The Journal of Pediatrics has even shown that iodine deficiency is associated with the risk of primary hypothyroidism in preterm infants. Ensure an adequate intake of iodine (200 to 300mcg daily when pregnant or planning to be pregnant).
  • Iodine excess - Research has shown that an excess exposure to iodine in newborn, and especially preterm, children increases the likelihood of him or her contracting hypothyroidism.
  • Fetal exposure to antithyroid drugs - Antithyroid drugs decrease thyroid hormone production for patients suffering from hyperthyroidism. However, some research from The Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases has found that these drugs can decrease neonatal thyroid hormone production, potentially causing CH.
  If you have a family history of congenital hypothyroidism or any other thyroid disease, and plan to or are already pregnant, it is important to maximize the chances of your future child being healthy. The easiest thing to do is ensure an adequate daily intake of iodine (200 to 300mcg daily when pregnant or planning to be pregnant). Supplements are usually the best way to achieve that. That being said, consult with your doctor to ensure that you are taking the proper measures to limit your future child’s chances of having congenital hypothyroidism. Consider Dr. Arem’s ThyroNatal, the only prenatal multivitamin for women planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant, or are breastfeeding that takes into account mother and fetus thyroid and immune system health.

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