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Merck: International Survey Reveals A Lack Of Knowledge About The Impact of Thyroid Disorders On Fertility

Results of the survey, initiated by Merck and conducted by YouGov, indicate a need to better educate people on the implications of undiagnosed thyroid disorders on fertility and the health of mother and baby


The survey included over 7,000 people across 6 countries (Chile, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia)


Survey results coincide with International Thyroid Awareness Week, the annual campaign developed by Merck in close collaboration with Thyroid Federation International and ThyroidChange

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced international survey results* which reveal a lack of understanding about the implications that undiagnosed thyroid disorders can have on fertility, fetal development and the health of mother and baby. The results come at the start of the 12th International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW), from May 25 – 31, which focuses on ‘Mother and Baby’ this year.

Worldwide, 1.6 billion people are thought to be at risk of thyroid disorders1, with one in eight women developing thyroid problems in her lifetime.2 Yet, the results of this survey show that only one quarter (24%) of respondents are aware that undiagnosed thyroid disorders can cause fertility problems,** and 48% are not aware that hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause complications for mother and baby during pregnancy.***

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Ashok Bhaseen, President of Thyroid Federation International and Denise Roguz, Co-founder of ThyroidChange, both agree that the survey calls for better education regarding the impact of unmanaged thyroid disorders on fertility and the health of both mother and baby.

Ashok Bhaseen commented: “Thyroid disorders don’t just affect pregnancy. A new mother with no previous history of thyroid disorders can develop complications and new-born babies can be born without a functioning thyroid gland.”

Denise Roguz added: “We want more women to get their thyroid hormone levels screened with a full thyroid panel and more doctors to be aware of optimal thyroid hormone level guidelines during pregnancy. This will help to ensure healthy levels before, during, and after pregnancy so that people are not suffering during this defining life milestone.”

Further survey insights show that less than half (48%) of respondents are aware that it is crucial to check for optimal thyroid hormone levels for pregnant women throughout pregnancy**** and only a quarter (26%) of respondents are aware that new mothers who have no previous history of thyroid disease can develop problems with their thyroid within the first year after giving birth; a condition that is called postpartum thyroiditis.

* Additionally, less than half (45%) of respondents are aware that newborn babies (i.e. one month or younger) need to be tested for congenital hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid present at or before birth), in case they are born with an underdeveloped thyroid gland and may require treatment.

“Merck is proud to be partnering with Thyroid Federation International and ThyroidChange to raise awareness of the impact of unmanaged thyroid disorders on the health of mothers and babies. We believe that with access to the right information, people can recognize symptoms and know whento visit their doctor for a simple blood test to check the functioning of their thyroid gland.” said Andre Musto, Head of Global Business Franchise General Medicine and Endocrinology (GM&E).

The survey was undertaken for Merck by YouGov between 24 March and 6 April 2020. A total of 7,208 adults in six countries (Chile, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia) participated in the survey.
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*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 7,208 adults in Chile, China, Columbia, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Fieldwork was undertaken from 24 March to 6 April 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (Aged 18+) in each country.

** When presented with a list of possible complications to check for during pregnancy [Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cancer, vision problems, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (i.e. prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract), thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (i.e. a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels), diabetes, a woman’s age, kidney disease]

*** 52% of adults across all markets surveyed knew hypothyroidism can cause complications for mother and baby, while 16% did not and 32% did not know.

**** When presented with a list of possible complications to check for during pregnancy [Eating a balanced diet, washing your hands regularly, drinking caffeine (e.g. tea, coffee etc.), continuing light exercise (e.g. leisurely walk, aqua fitness etc.), not consuming alcohol and drugs, checking for optimal levels of thyroid hormones, being careful not to inhale fumes from paint and other chemicals, staying away from cat faeces and / or litter trays]

* 26% of adults across all markets surveyed knew women with no previous history of thyroid disorders can develop thyroid complications within the first year after giving birth, while 21% did not and 53% did not know.

When presented with a list of possible disorders that babies should be tested for at birth [Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), congenital hypothyroidism (i.e. underactive thyroid present at or before birth), congenital (present at or before) diabetes, congenital (present at or before birth) kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. prolonged inflammation of the digestive tract), congenital (present at or before birth) heart disease, hearing, balance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (i.e. a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels)]

References

Khan A, Khan MM, Akhtar S. Thyroid disorders, etiology and prevalence. J Med Sci 2002; 2: 89–94. Available at: http://www.scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=jms.2002.89.94&org=11 Last Accessed April 2020.
HealthyWomen. Thyroid awareness: what happens when this little gland goes haywire. Available at: https://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/thyroid-awareness-what-happens-when-little-gland-goes-haywire Last Accessed April 2020.
American Thyroid Association. General Information/Press Room. Available at: https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/ Last accessed April 2020.
Everyday Health. Are you at risk for thyroid disease? Available at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/thyroid-conditions/evaluating-your-thyroid-disease-risk.aspx. Last accessed April 2020. 
American Thyroid Association. Hyperthyroidism. Available at: http://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/ata-hyperthyroidism-brochure.pdf. Last accessed April 2020.

Shenja Schaefer-