A new study has found that the number of pregnant women given a common drug to boost thyroid hormone levels may lead to a reduced number of still-births, early caesarean sections and low-weight babies. Lead author of the study Peter Taylor from University of Cardiff in Britain said, “Our work raises the possibility of providing real benefits from using a safe, cheap and well established treatment by simply extending it to the number of pregnant women we treat”. The thyroid gland is an organ found in the base of the neck and produces essential hormones that control the body’s metabolism, the way we use energy.Thyroid hormones are also critical for foetal brain development, but babies cannot make any of their own until the second trimester and have to source all of it from their mothers.
Pregnant women with mild hypothyroidism have low levels of thyroid hormones. And it can be treated with a hormone replacement drug called levothyroxine. For the study, researchers investigated whether pregnant women with mild hypothyroidism and their babies would also benefit from levothyroxine treatment. They combined data from a thyroid screening study and linked it to routinely collected clinical data to study the effect of correcting borderline thyroid function on obstetric outcomes. The researchers analysed over 13,000 women who were 12-16 weeks pregnant, 518 of whom had mild hypothyroidism.Of these, 263 women received levothyroxine and the rest received no treatment.They assessed the women’s pregnancy outcomes by measuring stillbirth rates, preterm delivery, length of stay at hospital, birth weight and the number of early caesarean sections.