Antibody test predicts risk of thyroid disease after pregnancy

Women who are pregnant have a moderate risk of suffering from postpartum thyroid disease, which is why a Czech group of clinicians and biotechnicians recently tested the rate at which patients with a particular antibody develop thyroid problems after giving birth.

Their findings, which were presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology, indicated that 35 percent of pregnant women who test positive for thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) will go on to suffer from hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism or postpartum thyroiditis.

Thyroid peroxidase is an enzyme that helps the thyroid gland utilize iodine in the production of thyroid hormones. However, approximately one in seven women have an autoimmune reaction to the enzyme, a response that entails the production of TPOAb.

In the general population, 14 percent of women and 3 percent of men have TPOAb in their blood. However, scientists are still debating whether the antibody's presence is physically significant, since most TPOAb-positive people have normal thyroid function.

In the study, which was conducted by researchers at Prague's Charles University and General University Hospital, scientists found that the presence of the antibody during pregnancy boosts the risk of thyroid dysfunction for up to two years after giving birth.

The team came to this conclusion after testing 822 healthy women for their antibody and thyroid hormone levels before, during and after pregnancy. In all, 189 participants developed thyroid problems after giving birth, and the majority of these patients tested positive for TPOAb.

"We need to educate women to be aware that having this antibody can have serious health implications for themselves and their families," lead author Eliska Potlukova stated.

Pregnancy increases the risk for thyroid disease not only after birth, but during gestation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that one in 500 pregnancies results in hyperthyroidism, usually as a result of Graves' disease.

Likewise, up to three in every 1,000 pregnancies involve hypothyroidism, the agency reports.