Fetal and neonatal thyroid function in relation to maternal Graves' disease

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jun;18(2):289-302. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2004.03.009.


The abundance of published data on the neonatal effects of maternal Graves' disease (GD) contrasts with the paucity of information on fetal effects. In our yet unpublished study, we prospectively studied 72 pregnant women with a history of Graves' disease. Fetal ultrasonography was done at 22 and 32 weeks of gestational age. Fetal goiter was found at 32 weeks in 11 of the fetuses of the 41 mothers with positive TSH-receptor antibodies and/or antithyroid treatment and in none of the fetuses of the 31 other mothers. In the 11 fetuses with goiter, ultrasound findings (thyroid Doppler and bone maturation), fetal heart rate, and maternal antibody and antithyroid drug status effectively discriminated between hypothyroidism (n=7) and hyperthyroidism (n=4). One fetus with hyperthyroidism died in utero at 35 weeks from heart failure. Treatment was successful in the ten other fetuses. One fetus without goiter had moderate hypothyroidism at birth. This study showed that it is of the utmost importance to have the fetal thyroid scrutinized by an expert ultrasonographist and to have team work with obstetricians and paediatric endocrinologists in pregnant mothers with GD. This allowed us to accurately determine fetal thyroid status and to adapt the treatment in mothers successfully. Fetal hyperthyroidism does exist and needs an appropriate aggressive treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Fetal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Fetal Diseases / therapy
  • Goiter / diagnostic imaging
  • Goiter / physiopathology*
  • Goiter / therapy
  • Graves Disease / diagnosis
  • Graves Disease / physiopathology*
  • Graves Disease / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / diagnosis
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology
  • Ultrasonography