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According to a large American study, low levels of important body-regulating chemicals in mothers during the first three months of pregnancy can impair baby’s brain development.
These chemicals, or hormones, are produced by the thyroid gland in the neck and are known to affect the growth of the fetus. The researchers suggested that manufacturing disorders or hypothyroidism may contribute to attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children in the United States
Led by a researcher at NYU Long Island School of Medicine, the new research found that children whose mothers were diagnosed with hypothyroidism shortly before or in the early stages of pregnancy were 24 percent more likely to develop ADHD than children who did Mothers were not diagnosed. The authors say their results also show that boys born to hypothyroid women were four times more susceptible to ADHD than girls whose mothers had hypothyroidism. Hispanic children born to hypothyroid mothers were at the highest risk of any ethnic group studied.
“Our results make it clear that thyroid health is likely to play a much larger role in fetal brain development and behavioral disorders such as ADHD than we have previously understood,” says study director Morgan Peltier, Ph.D. Peltier is an Associate Professor in the Clinical Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Medicine Departments at NYU Winthrop Hospital, part of NYU Langone Health.
Study results included that a woman’s hypothyroidism had little effect on her children after she reached the second trimester. One possible explanation, Peltier says, is that by this point the fetus has started producing its own thyroid hormones and is therefore less prone to its mother’s deficiencies.
The new research, published October 21 in the American Journal of Perinatology, tracked 329,157 children from birth to the age of 17, all born in Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California. According to the study’s authors, it is the first large-scale effort in the US to investigate a possible link between a mother’s hypothyroidism and ADHD in her children. The authors also note that, contrary to previous research in Europe, the new American study included people from different ethnic backgrounds and observed the children for almost two decades. This long study period, according to lead author Peltier, enabled researchers to better understand cases of ADHD in children as they age and as they progressed through school.
As part of the new research, the team analyzed children’s medical records and gathered vital information about their mothers, including age during pregnancy, race, and household income. All children were screened for ADHD using the same criteria, which the authors said helped avoid inconsistencies in identifying cases of the disorder.
According to the results, a total of 16,696 children were diagnosed with ADHD. Hispanic children whose mothers had low thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy had a 45 percent increased risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder, compared to a 22 percent increased risk in white children whose mothers had the same condition.
According to Peltier, his team’s results are strong enough to warrant careful monitoring of pregnant women with low thyroid hormone levels. He adds that children whose mothers had low thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy could potentially benefit from earlier monitoring for signs of ADHD such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and difficulty concentrating on a task. Previous research has found that rapid intervention can help manage ADHD and make it easier for children to succeed in the classroom and learn social skills.
The study team next plans to investigate whether hypothyroidism during pregnancy can increase the risk of other neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and speech difficulties. They also intend to study other factors that may increase the risk of ADHD in children, such as B. exposure to environmental toxins such as flame retardants in upholstered furniture, electronic devices and other household appliances during pregnancy.
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