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Congenital hypothyroidism (CH) is a condition found in newborn babies when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. You can find more information about the causes of congenital hypothyroidism in the CH overview article. Unless treatment begins soon after birth, babies born with CH experience reduced intelligence, abnormal growth, and possible neurological defects.
There are two basic types of congenital hypothyroidism known as permanent and transient.
• Permanent congenital hypothyroidism - This condition is usually the result of a missing or abnormal thyroid that cannot produce enough thyroid hormone. Infants born with this type of hypothyroidism will need life-long treatment.
• Transient congenital hypothyroidism – Approximately 10 to 20 percent of infants born with hypothyroidism have this temporary form of the disease. In most cases, the cause is iodine deficiency due to the mother not having enough iodine in her diet. Adding iodine to the baby’s diet can reverse this type of hypothyroidism.
Women who have autoimmune thyroid disease can transfer antibodies to the unborn baby that prevents the baby’s thyroid from functioning correctly. This condition usually corrects itself within three months after birth as the mother’s antibodies are naturally cleared from the baby. Babies exposed to very high doses of iodine due to medications their mothers take while pregnant may also experience temporary malfunction of the thyroid that will resolve over time.
Infants with congenital hypothyroidism are often noted as being “good babies” because they do not cry as much as other infants and sleep most of the time.
Other symptoms of CH include:
• High birth weight
• Large head size
• Lower activity level, slow movements
• Feeding problems
• Poor growth or small size
• Jaundice (yellow coloration in the skin and whites of the eyes)
• Constipation or less stool
• Hoarse cry
• Dull expression
• Puffy face