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Mary Shomon

Neonatal Graves' Disease: Hyperthyroidism in Newborn Babies

By June 15, 2010

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It's not always known or understood by thyroid patients -- and even thyroid specialists and obstetricians are not always on top of the issue -- but when a woman has (or had) Graves' disease, even after receiving RAI treatment, antibodies can sometimes transfer to her unborn baby, and the baby can be born with elevated antibodies and hyperthyroidism. This condition -- called neonatal hyperthyroidism -- is a risk to the newborn. A thyroid patient and mother just wrote to me recently, to share her story, in the hopes that I would help get the word out to women who may not be aware of this situation. She writes:
"I wanted to write because of what happened to me when I was pregnant with my first son.† I thought if I shared this with you, maybe one day you could let the world know what happened to me.† I was diagnosed and treated with RAI for Graves' in 1991, when I was 16.† I was told it would do nothing to me, or to future babies I might have. When I was pregnant for the first time in 2003, I found out I was having problems with my baby at 28 weeks, due to fluid in his lungs.† No one knew what was wrong. Test after test was performed, and nothing came back abnormal.† I even went to a top university to see a doctor and and drew the fluid out of the baby's lungs.†That fluid also came back normal.† I went into labor at 31 weeks, and my baby passed away shortly after.† The doctors did not know what was wrong and why. I had to have an autopsy done to find out what was wrong.† We found out that my son had Graves' disease while I was carrying him.†For some strange reason, my thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) antibody levels had become elevated -- through the roof -- and attacked his thyroid.† Everyone told me that what happened to me and my baby is so unheard of and rare that there really was nothing anyone could have done.† Which I find very hard to believe, because my research says otherwise.† Not until my third son was born, and when I saw a pediatric endocrinologist, did he finally tell me that someone, somewhere should have caught this and done something about it.† It is rare that this happened, but the thought and idea should have been there.† My hope is that you can get this out there for other women to read, so that they at least know.†† When I was pregnant with my second son, they put me on PTU to get to him to keep the TSI at bay.† It did what it was supposed to have done when I was carrying him, but after he was born, he still developed Graves' disease, because he still had my TSI antibodies in him. He spent two and a half weeks in neonatal intensive care and then three months on PTU, and is fine now.† Same with my third son.† I wanted to share this with you so that maybe you could get this out there one day to help others."
Learn more about neonatal hyperthyroidism now.

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February 14, 2011 at 7:29 pm
(1) Melanie says:

Thank you so much for sharing your story! You are so amazing and have been through alot! I really appreciate your advice for my future and you may have just saved me and my future baby. Thank you

September 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm
(2) Riley says:

Thank you for sharing your story! I can’t imagine what you have gone through!

I had been treated with RAI for Grave’s disease 6 years prior to becoming pregnant with my son. During the pregnancy only my TSH was monitored.

My son was also born with anti-Thyroid antibodies and transient hyperthyroidism. He was preterm and IUGR. Preterm because they determined he was in distress and induced us, ultimately ended with a c-section. A nurse told me, another week and he would have been stillborn.

Neither my OB or physicians in the NICU expected this. During prenatal visits I requested to see my previous Endo but was told there was no need to see him.

It makes sense to me/us that antibodies are still circulating even after the thyroid is destroyed and that they can reach your baby.

I’m really curious as to why physicians regard the issue as black and white in terms of thyroid function when it’s also autoimmune, I consider myself hypothyroid with Grave’s Disease now. :)

December 12, 2011 at 8:45 am
(3) Stevie-Jayne says:

I developed Graves disease AFTER my daughter was born in 2006 and also have the eye disease. I opted after advise to have a full thyroidectomy in order to try for another baby. On valentines day 2009 my son was born 11 days early and to the surprise of everyone was a massive 8lbs 6oz. He has elevated thyroid and had my antibodies. These stayed in his system and after 2 yrs of being concerned about his health (he has asthma, repeated chest infections and croup) and now only on the 2nd centile for height and 9th for weight i found out last week they believe he STILL has antibodies present. The doctors had his results for 8weeks and said everything was normal. However when i asked they said his throid function is normal but antibodies measure 5! I dont know what this means. Should i be concerned? I cant get to talk to anyone at the hospital ( as they said they didnt know how to interpret it and would speak to an endocrinologist and havent called back yet).

Does anyone have any advise?

Generally hes very good, speaking talking and all development on target am i being paranoid?

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