BACKGROUND: Cerebral palsy is the most frequent motor disability in childhood, but little is known about its etiology. It has been suggested that cerebral palsy risk may be increased by prenatal thyroid hormone disturbances. The objective of this study was to investigate whether maternal thyroid disorder is associated with increased risk of cerebral palsy.
METHODS: A population-based cohort study using two study populations. 1) 1,270,079 children born in Denmark 1979-2007 identified in nationwide registers, and 2) 192,918 children born 1996-2009 recruited into the Danish National Birth Cohort and The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study, combined in the MOthers and BAbies in Norway and Denmark (MOBAND) collaboration cohort. Register-based and self-reported information on maternal thyroid disorder was studied in relation to risk of cerebral palsy and its unilateral and bilateral spastic subtypes using multiple logistic regression. Children were followed from the age of 1 year to the age of 6 years, and cerebral palsy was identified in nationwide registers with verified diagnoses.
RESULTS: In register data, hypothyroidism was recognized in 12,929 (1.0%), hyperthyroidism in 9943 (0.8%), and unclassifiable thyroid disorder in 753 (< 0.1%) of the mothers. The odds ratio for an association between maternal thyroid disorder and bilateral spastic cerebral palsy was 1.0 (95% CI: 0.7-1.5). Maternal thyroid disorder identified during pregnancy was associated with elevated risk of unilateral spastic cerebral palsy (odds ratio 3.1 (95% CI: 1.2-8.4)). In MOBAND, 3042 (1.6%) of the mothers reported a thyroid disorder in pregnancy, which was not associated with cerebral palsy overall (odds ratio 1.2 (95% CI: 0.6-2.4)).
CONCLUSIONS: Maternal thyroid disorder overall was not related to bilateral spastic cerebral palsy, but maternal thyroid disorder identified in pregnancy was associated with increased risk of unilateral spastic cerebral palsy. These findings should be replicated in studies making use of maternal blood samples.