Debate over who needs a thyroid check in pregnancy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Check-ups during pregnancy tend to focus around the waist. But there's growing debate about which mothers-to-be should have a gland in their neck tested, too.Numerous studies since 1999 have found that an underactive thyroid can raise a woman's risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or a lower IQ for her baby - even if it's so mildly sluggish that she feels no symptoms.The problem: While serious cases are treated with a hormone pill, so far there's little evidence that treating the milder cases makes a difference. So guidelines about who should be tested vary widely.Now a peek at prenatal testing from one of the country's largest medical labs suggests that nearly a quarter of pregnant women are getting the simple thyroid blood test regardless of whether they have symptoms.Researchers at Quest Diagnostics examined records for half a million pregnant women. Of those who got tested, a higher-than-expected number - 15 percent - had an underactive thyroid. That's five-fold higher than some previous estimates, partly because the way in which the condition is diagnosed has changed recently, says the study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.The vast majority of those women were in the gray zone, with milder cases where no one knows for sure if a diagnosis helps or wastes money on testing and thyroid medication.The finding adds pressure for science to settle this long-running controversy.\We still don't have perfect answers

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