Study Finds Link Between Preeclampsia and Reduced Thyroid Function
Women who experience preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy, may have an increased risk for reduced thyroid functioning later in life, report a team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.
Hamidi: Preeclampsia is a pregnancy condition in which high blood pressure and protein in the urine develop late in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. A recent study has found a link between preeclampsia and hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Dr. Richard Levine is a senior investigator at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and served as the lead author of the study. He explains, researchers found that women who had preeclampsia in more than one pregnancy were at a higher risk for hypothyroidism.
Dr. Levine: And in fact, if they had had preeclampsia in two successive pregnancies their likelihood of having these high levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone was much increased. It went from about a two-fold increase with one pregnancy with preeclampsia, to a six-fold increase with two pregnancies.
Hamidi: Preeclampsia is a life-threatening complication that occurs in 3 to 5 percent of pregnancies. Preeclampsia may begin with mild symptoms, and then progress to dangerously high blood pressure and convulsions — which may result in disability or death. The only known cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby.
Dr. Levine: Yes, that's what everybody thinks — that when the baby is delivered, and more particularly when the placenta is removed, that all the bad things go away. But it was our idea that maybe preeclampsia left a mark that didn't go away and could lead possibly to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, or kidney disease or in this case thyroid disease after pregnancy. And we did find that it was related to thyroid disease.
Hamidi: Dr. Levine says that while all the long term effects of preeclampsia are not yet fully understood, the results of this study can still guide physicians in asking more educated questions of their patients.
Dr. Levine: I think we know enough that practicing physicians should be asking for pregnancy history and if a woman has had preeclampsia she should be monitored carefully for risk factors for cardiovascular disease, for kidney disease and for the possibility that she might have hypothyroid function.
Hamidi: Dr. Levine adds that the good news is hypothyroidism is easily treatable.
Dr. Levine: If the woman is symptomatic — perhaps she gets tired frequently, she doesn't have much energy or perhaps she has elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and so forth — it could be due to thyroid and she could be treated with thyroxidine which is very inexpensive.
Hamidi: For more information regarding this study and preeclampsia, visit www.nichd.nih.gov. This is Anahita Hamidi, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Anahita Hamidi
Sound Bite: Dr. Richard Levine
Topic: preeclampsia, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, pregnancy, thyroid, cardio vascular
Additional Info: Study Finds Link Between Preeclampsia and Reduced Thyroid Function