Abnormal Thyroid Hormone Levels During Pregnancy May Increase the Risk of Preschool Boys’ Behavioral Problems

Thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy may predict preschool boys’ emotional and behavioral problems, according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Thyroid hormones are crucial for normal development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. During the first trimester — the first three months of pregnancy — a baby depends on its mother’s supply of thyroid hormone, which comes through the placenta. Levels of maternal thyroid hormones, including thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4), change dynamically during pregnancy, and both high and low maternal thyroid hormone levels can affect children’s behavioral development.

“Our findings highlight the significance of close monitoring and management of maternal thyroid function during pregnancy,” says Kun Huang, Ph.D., of the Anhui Medical University in Anhui, China. “This research presents a new perspective in early intervention of children’s emotional and behavioral problems.”

The researchers studied 1860 pairs of mothers and their children from the Ma’anshan Birth Cohort in China. The researchers repeatedly measured thyroid hormone levels in the first, second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The researchers checked in with the families periodically until the children were 4 years old to evaluate their behavior.

The researchers found boys born to mothers with high thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy were more likely to be withdrawn, have behavioral problems and be anxious or depressed. Moderate and low thyroid hormone levels were associated with aggressive behavior in preschool boys.

Other authors of the study include: Peixuan Li, Yuzhu Teng, Xue Ru, Zijian Liu, Yan Han and Fangbiao Tao of the Anhui Medical University.

The study received funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the University Synergy Innovation Program of Anhui Province, the Sci-tech Basic Resources Research Program of China, the National Key Research and Development Program, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Research Fund of Anhui Institute of Translational Medicine.

The manuscript, “Sex-specific Effect of Maternal Thyroid Hormone Trajectories on Preschoolers’ Behavioral Development: A Birth Cohort Study,” was published online, ahead of print.

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