Maternal phenylketonuria in Turkey: outcomes of 71 pregnancies and issues in management

Eur J Pediatr. 2019 Jul;178(7):1005-1011. doi: 10.1007/s00431-019-03387-8. Epub 2019 May 3.


Untreated phenylketonuria (PKU) in pregnancy causes a severe embryopathy called maternal PKU syndrome. Here, we aimed to assess management issues and pregnancy outcomes in the first published series of PKU pregnancies from the developing world. Data were collected retrospectively in a single center from 71 pregnancies and 45 live births of 32 women with PKU, 11 of whom were diagnosed in adulthood after having an affected child. Microcephaly, intellectual disability, and dysmorphic facies were more prevalent in offspring of untreated than treated pregnancies with classical PKU (100% vs. 0%, 91% vs. 0%, and 73% vs. 23% with p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p = 0.037, respectively). In treated pregnancies, phenylalanine levels were higher during weeks 6-14 than other periods of gestation (4.38 vs. 3.93, 2.00 and 2.28 mg/dl; p < 0.05). Poor compliance correlated with higher phenylalanine levels (ρ = - 0.64, p = 0.019) and fluctuations (ρ = - 0.66, p = 0.014).Conclusion: More frequent phenylalanine measurements during late first trimester are crucial to improve outcomes in treated pregnancies. In order to prevent untreated pregnancies via detecting undiagnosed adults, countries where significantly many women of childbearing age were not screened as newborns may consider pre-pregnancy PKU screening. Microcephaly in the newborn should prompt screening for PKU in the mother. What Is Known •Untreated phenylketonuria during pregnancy causes maternal phenylketonuria syndrome in the newborn. •Effective treatment throughout pregnancy can prevent adverse fetal outcomes. What Is New: •Metabolic control is related to frequency of follow-up and worsens during late first trimester. Closer follow-up during this period may improve metabolic control. •In order to prevent untreated pregnancies, pre-pregnancy phenylketonuria screening may be considered if many women of childbearing age were not screened as newborns.

Keywords: Hyperphenylalaninemia; Maternal phenylketonuria; Phenylalanine hydroxylase deficiency; Phenylketonuria; Pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology
  • Microcephaly / epidemiology
  • Microcephaly / etiology
  • Phenylketonuria, Maternal / diagnosis
  • Phenylketonuria, Maternal / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Turkey / epidemiology