Abbott, FOGSI raise awareness about hypothyroidism in pregnant women

Updated: Jul 23, 2019, 20:05 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Thyroid hormone is critical for normal development of the fetal brain and nervous system

Abbott, FOGSI raise awareness about hypothyroidism in pregnant women
Representational Picture

Abbott, Indian Thyroid Society, and FOGSI have joined hands in order to raise awareness on the importance of thyroid screening in pregnant women. Thyroid disorders are highly prevalent in India. Approximately 8.3 to 10.4 percent or 1 in 10 adults suffer from hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the needs of the body. This condition is twice as prevalent in women as in men and the condition is common among women of child-bearing age.

A 2016 study conducted in nine Indian states across OPD setups assessing the prevalence of hypothyroidism in pregnancy found 13.13 percent of pregnant women to be hypothyroid. There is significant regional variation in prevalence, and in Maharashtra, the study showed 17.85 percent prevalence in Pune and 14 percent in Nasik.

Abnormal levels of thyroid hormones during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of complications such as anemia, miscarriages, postpartum bleeding, preeclampsia, and placental abruption. The thyroid hormone is critical for normal development of the fetal brain and nervous system and during the first trimester, the fetus depends on the mother’s supply of thyroid hormone, which directly comes through the placenta.

Throid Conference
L to R Dr. Srirupa Das, Medical Director, Abbott, Dr. Shashank Joshi, Secretary, ITS and  Nandita Palshetkar, President FOGSI India at the Thyroid awareness campaign in Mumbai 3

Therefore, treating thyroid disorders is important for both maternal and child health, as thyroid disorders significantly increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and fetal death. Thyroid hormone is critical for normal development of the fetal brain and nervous system.

Despite the high prevalence of hypothyroidism among pregnant women in India and the risks that the condition poses, there is low penetration of screening and testing for the condition in pregnant women. Dr. Nandita Palshetkar, President of Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), explains, "Since thyroid disorders present non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, etc., they are often difficult to diagnose without testing. In the absence of visible signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders, combined with low patient awareness, thyroid testing tends to be overlooked."

Detection in the first trimester is particularly important. It is recommended that testing should be conducted at the first prenatal visit or at the time of confirmation of pregnancy and that diagnosis should be based on trimester-specific TSH thresholds. Dr. Shashank Joshi, Secretary, Indian Thyroid Society (ITS), observes, “Late detection not only increases the chance that surgical intervention is required, but it also leads to a higher risk of irreversible damage caused by complications."

Awareness plays a critical role in the fight against under-detection. Under its campaign, Making India Thyroid Aware (MITA) and in partnership with Abbott India, ITS seeks to drive awareness amongst doctors and patients for early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders amongst women in the age group of 25 to 45 years. Through a range of initiatives driving education among doctors, making Indian women aware of thyroid disorders and facilitating early detection, MITA has reached over 50,000 doctors and 5.6 million patients nationwide since 2011.

Recently, Abbott and ITS launched a digital campaign to procure pledges from doctors across India in support of MITA. In recognition of each pledge and to further diagnostic access for underprivileged women, Abbott will donate an equal number of free screening tests to an NGO. More than 8,500 doctor pledges have been received till date.

Dr. Srirupa, Medical Director, Abbott adds, "Abbott is a thought leader in thyroid therapy and has been a knowledge and education partner to ITS to drive awareness of thyroid disorders in India. In the coming year, Abbott, ITS, and FOGSI plan to educate another 20,000 physicians and gynecologists, while also driving awareness among 10 million thyroid patients through digital, print and in-clinic initiatives. Combining the skills and resources of multiple stakeholders, this campaign can lead to greater awareness, strengthening of health services and eventually better disease control. With access to the physician and gynecologists bodies to cascade changes swiftly, we can raise awareness through initiatives at scale, ensuring they reach both medical and patient communities."

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