Thyroid function in wholly breast-feeding infants whose mothers take high doses of propylthiouracil

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2000 Aug;53(2):177-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.2000.01078.x.


Background: Propylthiouracil (PTU) might theoretically be preferred over methimazole (MMI) during breast-feeding because of its lower milk/serum concentration ratio (0.1 vs. 1.0). The problem is that Graves' disease often relapses during the postpartum period, and high doses of PTU are sometimes needed to control maternal hyperthyroidism) during breast-feeding. However, there are virtually no data on the effects of maternal PTU on thyroid status of infants whose mothers take more than 300 mg PTU daily and who are wholly breast-feeding.

Objectives: To investigate whether mothers can breast-feed without adverse effects on infants' thyroid status while taking 300 mg or more daily of PTU.

Subjects and design: Eleven infants who were wholly breast-fed while their mothers took PTU 300-750 mg daily for Graves' hyperthyroidism were included in this study. In one of the 11 infants, the mother also took iodine 6 mg daily for a limited period. Thyroid status in these infants was evaluated.

Measurements: Free T4 (FT4), thyrotrophin (TSH), and TSH binding inhibiting antibody (TBIAb) concentrations were examined at least once in the age range 6 days to 9 months. Maternal blood was also examined for FT4 and TBIAb on the same day, or within a week, of the infants' blood tests. FT4, TSH and TBIAb concentrations at birth were examined, using cord blood, in cases where antithyroid drugs had been continued through delivery.

Results: Three of the 11 infants had TSH concentrations higher than the normal range for adults. In one of the three infants, the TSH concentration, which was determined 19 weeks after birth, was just above the normal range. In the remaining two infants whose mothers had taken PTU through delivery, TSH concentrations, determined within 7 days after birth, were distinctly high, but they became normal while maternal PTU doses were the same as or higher than those at the initial examination. Maternal PTU doses or FT4 concentrations were not significantly correlated with infants' TSH concentrations.

Conclusion: Mothers can breast-feed while taking propylthiouracil at doses as high as 750 mg daily without adverse effects on thyroid status in their infants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antithyroid Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antithyroid Agents / adverse effects
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Breast Feeding* / adverse effects
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Graves Disease / blood
  • Graves Disease / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Propylthiouracil / administration & dosage*
  • Propylthiouracil / adverse effects
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood


  • Antithyroid Agents
  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulins, Thyroid-Stimulating
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin
  • Propylthiouracil
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine