Association of maternal levothyroxine use during pregnancy with offspring birth and neurodevelopmental outcomes: a population-based cohort study

Grace Mengqin Ge, Edmund C.L. Cheung, Kenneth K.C. Man, Patrick Ip, Wing Cheong Leung, Gloria H.Y. Li, Annie W.C. Kung, Ching Lung Cheung, Ian C.K. Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The influence of maternal levothyroxine treatment during pregnancy remains unclear. This study aimed to evaluate the associations of maternal levothyroxine treatment during pregnancy with the birth and neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring. Methods: This population-based cohort study was conducted among pregnant women using the Hong Kong Clinical Data Analysis and Reporting System. Mother-child pairs in Hong Kong from 2001 to 2015 were included and children were followed up till 2020. We defined the exposure group as mothers who were exposed to levothyroxine during pregnancy. Preterm birth and small for gestational age (SGA) were included as birth outcomes. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were included as neurodevelopmental outcomes. Odds ratios (OR) or hazard ratios (HRs) with a 95% confidence interval (CI) were evaluated to assess the association of gestational levothyroxine use with offspring birth and neurodevelopmental outcomes respectively, using propensity score fine-stratification weighting and a Cox proportional hazards regression model. Results: Among 422,156 mother-child pairs, 2125 children were born from mothers exposed to levothyroxine during pregnancy. A significantly increased risk of preterm birth was observed in children with maternal levothyroxine exposure during pregnancy, when compared to mothers who had no history of thyroid-related diagnoses or prescriptions (weighted OR [wOR]: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.39). Similarly, an increased risk of preterm birth was found among children of gestational levothyroxine users, when compared to children of mothers who had used levothyroxine before but stopped during pregnancy (wOR: 2.16, 95% CI: 1.09, 4.25). Sensitivity analysis, by excluding mothers exposed to psychotropic or antiepileptic medications before or during pregnancy, also indicated a similar increased risk of preterm birth regarding the gestational use of levothyroxine (wOR: 1.26, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.45). No significant association was observed for the risk of SGA, ADHD, and ASD. Conclusions: There is no evidence that gestational use of levothyroxine is associated with SGA, ADHD, or ASD in offspring. Gestational levothyroxine treatment is associated with a higher risk of preterm birth. Such risk might be confounded by the underlying maternal thyroid disease itself, however, we cannot completely exclude the possible effect of gestational L-T4 treatment on offspring preterm birth. Our findings provided support to the current guidelines on the cautious use of levothyroxine treatment during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number390
JournalBMC Medicine
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • birth outcomes
  • levothyroxine
  • maternal
  • offspring
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine

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