Lacking thyroid test facilities for pregnant women in Govt. Hospitals

Not many government hospitals in the state have the facility for thyroid screening, in spite of making it a must for all pregnant women. The screening helps detect hypothyroidism. Expectant mothers with this condition have high risk of abortion or suffer from excessive bleeding, coupled with illness of the child. Most children born to hypothyroid mothers are preterm babies and are at a high chance of having mental retardation.

Noted fertility expert Dr. Kamini Rao said it is recommended that women get the test done every trimester. "The ideal thyroid levels of pregnant women are different from other women. As a rule, it is tested along with other tests such as blood group and blood count in private hospitals. When the levels are high, it is mandatory that they are treated to ensure the child is not affected.

According to the National Health Mission guidelines, the Indian Thyroid Society recommends screening for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in all pregnant women during their first visit. However, most government hospitals do not offer the test for women. While doctors refer the high risk cases to private diagnostics, most pregnant women who depend on government hospitals skip the test, as it is expensive. The test costs anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 in private diagnostic centres. According to an official with the department of health and family welfare, about 80% women who are at high risk skip the test.

"While many in rural areas do not want to travel long distance to get the test done, others ignore doctor's advice. For a few, it is also an expensive affair," said the official. The official said the government is contemplating to make the test mandatory for women in hilly areas. High prevalence is noticed in hilly regions like Madikeri and Chikkamagaluru. The government is planning tie-ups with private labs to offer the test to women referred by government hospitals at affordable costs, the official said.