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Thyroid Disorders in Newborn Babies

Thyroid disorders, though rare among newborns, can prove to be life-threatening if left unattended. They may affect the healthy growth and development of the newborn baby. Thus, newborn screening is quite essential to detect abnormalities in your baby

What is Thyroid?

It is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland situated in the front of the neck. It secretes thyroid hormones that stimulate metabolic growth, sexual development, protein synthesis. The hormonal secretion of the thyroid is stimulated by the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) secreted by the pituitary gland.

Hyperthyroidism in Newborns

Hyperthyroidism is the over secretion of thyroid hormones due to overactivity of thyroid glands.  Hyperthyroidism in infants, usually known as Grave’s disease, is of rare occurrence among infants but common among children and adolescents.


A newborn may get it from the affected or previously affected mother.


  • Low birth weight
  • Enlarged liver or spleen
  • Abnormal size of the head
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Goiter
  • Insomnia
  • Bulging eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting


If not diagnosed earlier, hyperthyroidism may be fatal to the newborn. It is usually detected by newborn screening after birth.


Required medications like Methimazole is given to the newborn to lower the thyroid hormones levels and slow the heart rate to prevent heart failure.

Hypothyroidism in Newborns

Hypothyroidism is the decreased or no activity of thyroid gland thus producing insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism, also known as Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH), is a common case among infants where there is less or no production of thyroid hormones leading to abnormal growth and development of the baby.


  • No or poor development of thyroid gland in the baby.
  • Failure of the pituitary gland to secrete TSH.
  • Medications by mother during pregnancy.
  • Low iodine level in mother’s diet.


  • Dull look
  • Puffed up face
  • Thick tongue
  • Low hairline
  • Constipation
  • Hoarse cry
  • Jaundice
  • An umbilical hernia
  • Short height
  • Sleepiness
  • Short limbs


Hypothyroidism can be detected by the above abnormalities in growth and structure of the baby. It can also be detected by blood tests, ultrasound scan and x-rays of limbs.


Getting an early diagnosis is very important to reverse the hypothyroidism. Usually, thyroxine is administered to infants for the treatment of hypothyroidism. After that, regular blood tests are done to check the response of baby towards the treatment.


Early diagnosis is very important in both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism and the baby can thus, be saved from life-threatening consequences. Pregnant women should give proper attention to their diet for the good health of their baby.


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