Context: Abnormal maternal thyroid function in pregnancy may impair fetal brain development, but more evidence is needed to refine and corroborate the hypothesis.
Objective: To estimate the association between maternal thyroid function in early pregnancy and neuropsychological performance of the child at 5 years of age.
Design: Follow-up study.
Participants: A cohort of 1153 women and their children sampled from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Maternal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (fT4) were measured in stored biobank sera from early pregnancy.
Main outcomes measures: Child neuropsychological test results (Wechsler Intelligence Scale/Test of Everyday Attention), test of motor function (Movement Assessment Battery), and results of parent and teacher reports (Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function/Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire).
Results: Altogether 145 children (12.6%) were born to mothers with abnormal thyroid function in the early pregnancy. High maternal TSH and low fT4 were associated with lower child verbal intelligence quotient (adjusted mean difference TSH ≥ 10 mIU/L vs 0.1 to 2.49 mIU/L, -8.9 [95% confidence interval (CI), -15 to -2.4]; fT4 < 10 pmol/l vs 12.0 to 18.99 pmol/l, -13 [95% CI, -19 to -7.3]). Abnormal maternal thyroid function was also associated with adverse motor function and teacher-reported problems of executive function and behavior, and these associations were dominated by exposure to maternal hypothyroxinemia.
Conclusions: Maternal thyroid hormone abnormalities were associated with adverse neuropsychological function of the child at 5 years of age. For intelligence, marked hypothyroidism was important, whereas for motor function and executive and behavior problems, maternal hypothyroxinemia was predominant.
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