Clark T. Sawin historical vignette: What do criminology, Harry Houdini, and King George V Have in common with postpartum thyroid dysfunction?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations


The history of postpartum thyroid dysfunction (PPTD) dates back almost two millennia, when Soranus of Ephesus, who practiced obstetrics and neonatology, observed swelling in the necks (presumably goiters) of women after pregnancy. The next reference to PPTD appeared in artwork more than 1000 years later, with many portraits illustrating women with goiter while holding infants. In the early to mid-19th century, Caleb Hillier Parry and Armand Trousseau described postpartum hyperthyroidism, while in the late 1800s, Sir Horatio Bryan Donkin reported the first patient with postpartum hypothyroidism. The modern era of PPTD began with the description in the late 1940s by H.E.W. Roberton of women after delivery reporting hypothyroid symptoms and responding to thyroid extract. The immunologic influence on PPTD was recognized initially by Parker and Beierwaltes in the early 1960s, and the clinical variability and natural history were carefully documented by numerous investigators in the 1970s-1980s. The past two decades have seen further refinements in understanding the prevalence, etiology, and treatment of PPTD. Yet to be determined is the role of screening as a cost-effective measure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1752-1758
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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