Maternal thyroid function and child educational attainment: Prospective cohort study

Scott M. Nelson*, Caroline Haig, Alex McConnachie, Naveed Sattar, Susan M. Ring, George Davey Smith, Debbie A. Lawlor, Robert S. Lindsay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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OBJECTIVE To determine if first trimester maternal thyroid dysfunction is a critical determinant of child scholastic performance and overall educational attainment. DESIGN Prospective cohort study.
SETTING Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort in the UK. PARTICIPANTS 4615 mother-child pairs with an available first trimester sample (median 10 weeks gestation, interquartile range 8-12).
EXPOSURES Free thyroxine, thyroid stimulating hormone, and thyroid peroxidase antibodies assessed as continuous measures and the seven clinical categories of maternal thyroid function.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Five age-specific national curriculum assessments in 3580 children at entry stage assessment at 54 months, increasing up to 4461 children at their final school assessment at age 15.
RESULTS No strong evidence of clinically meaningful associations of first trimester free thyroxine and thyroid stimulating hormone levels with entry stage assessment score or Standard Assessment Test scores at any of the key stages was found. Associations of maternal free thyroxine or thyroid stimulating hormone with the total number of General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs) passed (range 0-16) were all close to the null: free thyroxine, rate ratio per pmol/L 1.00 (95% confidence interval 1.00 to 1.01); and thyroid stimulating hormone, rate ratio 0.98 (0.94 to 1.02). No important relationship was observed when more detailed capped scores of GCSEs allowing for both the number and grade of pass or when language, mathematics, and science performance were examined individually or when all educational assessments undertaken by an individual from school entry to leaving were considered. 200 (4.3%) mothers were newly identified as having hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism and 97 (2.1%) subclinical hyperthyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Children of mothers with thyroid dysfunction attained an equivalent number of GCSEs and equivalent grades as children of mothers with euthyroidism.
CONCLUSIONS Maternal thyroid dysfunction in early pregnancy does not have a clinically important association with impaired child performance at school or educational achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number84
Number of pages8
Early online date20 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Alternate title: Maternal thyroid function and offspring educational attainment

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