Thyroid Problem Triples Risk of Placental Separation in Birth


Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that pregnant women with antibodies that can indicate early thyroid disease can increase risks for placental separation at birth three-fold.

Dr. Brian Casey, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, co-lead author, says, “Our work shows a link between anti-TPO antibodies and placental abruption, but that does not necessarily mean that thyroid supplementation would improve the health of the women or babies.” Prescreening also would not be helpful, the study found.

Placental abruption is where the placenta separates from the uterus too early. The placenta is used to feed the baby during pregnancy. The rate for placental abruption in the women who had the antibodies were 1% compared to the 0.3% of those who did not have the antibodies. Further, the study found that the antibodies had no health effects on the babies.


Placental abruption is an uncommon, but dangerous, complication in pregnancy. It can cause lack of oxygen and nourishments to the baby and heavy bleeding to the pregnant mother. Left untreated, mother and baby face serious health complications.

Symptoms include:

• Vaginal bleeding
• Abdominal pain
• Back pain
• Uterine tenderness
• Rapid uterine contractions, often coming one right after another

Causes include:

• Trauma or injury to the abdomen — from an auto accident or fall, for example
• An unusually short umbilical cord
• Rapid loss of the fluid that surrounds and protects the baby in the uterus (amniotic fluid)

Risk Factors include:

• Previous placental abruption.
• High blood pressure.
• Abdominal trauma.
• Substance abuse. Placental abruption is more common in women who smoke or use cocaine during pregnancy.
• Preterm premature rupture of the membranes. “During pregnancy, the baby is enclosed in a sac filled with amniotic fluid, and the outer portion of this sac is referred to as amniotic membranes. If the membranes rupture early or if they develop a hole, your risk of placental abruption rises.”
• Blood-clotting disorders.
• Multiple pregnancy.
• Previous pregnancies.
• Age. Placental abruption is more common in women age 35 and older.