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Thyroid Disease and Your Fertility

How thyroid disease affects your fertility

Does your thyroid affect your fertility? How do you know when you should get your thyroid checked?

About 200 million people in the world suffer from diseases of the thyroid gland. Many people – even many who have been diagnosed with a thyroid disease - do not realize the extent of the impact that a disease of the thyroid gland can have on the body. More education and awareness about thyroid-related illnesses are needed.

What is the Role of the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland located just below the larynx. As the thyroid is the only part of the body that can absorb iodine, its function is to convert iodine from the diet into thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Once the iodine is converted into T3 and T4 it is released into the blood stream and controls our metabolism.

The thyroid also impacts the growth, development, and repair of our body. It is essential for the development of the nervous system. The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is controlled by the hypothalamus. When we don’t produce enough thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulation hormone (TSH) that increases the production of thyroid hormones.

What Do Thyroid Hormones Exactly Do?

The hormones that are released by the thyroid control the metabolism in the body by regulating oxygen consumption and heat production at the cellular level. Those hormones also influence how the body metabolizes nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Thyroid hormones as well control the growth and development of the fetus when a woman is pregnant. Other hormones in the body are dependent on healthy thyroid function, such as the human growth hormone and those that relate to the heart rate, blood pressure, and proper brain functioning.

How Do Thyroid Disorders Impact Fertility?

Disorders of the thyroid gland can cause significant fertility problems for women. Women with abnormal thyroid functioning have reduced rates of conception, increased risk of miscarriage, and adverse pregnancy and neo-natal outcomes such as preeclampsia, poor fetal growth, premature birth, and stillbirth.

About 2.3 percent of women with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) have fertility issues. The overactive gland condition also commonly causes menstrual irregularities, which in turns impact ovulation. The opposite condition, an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), affects about 0.5 percent of women of reproductive age.

The ovaries and adrenal glands are also controlled by the pituitary and hypothalamus and thus also connected to the proper function of the thyroid gland.

What are the Symptoms of Low Thyroid Function?

Hypothyroidism happens when the existing thyroid function is not sufficient to meet the body’s needs of the hormones it produces. You may have hypothyroidism if you have three or more of these symptoms:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Depression and irritability
  • Mind fog and memory loss
  • Digestive issues (usually constipation)
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Rough and dry skin
  • Dry, brittle hair, and/or hair loss
  • Eczema
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow pulse
  • Goiter (swollen thyroid)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Reduced libido
  • Menstrual cycle abnormalities
  • Difficulty conceiving or miscarrying

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto’s disease is a chronic autoimmune hypothyroid disorder in which the thyroid gland is under attack by your own autoantibodies. Hashimoto’s main fertility symptom is infertility. The disease is 7 times more common in women than men.

What are the Symptoms of an Overactive Thyroid?

When the thyroid gland is overactive it over produces its thyroid hormones. This can be caused by inflammation of the thyroid called thyroiditis. These symptoms may indicate that your thyroid is overactive:

  • Loss of libido
  • Amenorrhea (not menstruating)
  • Postpartum thyroiditis (which occurs in 7 percent of women within the first year following childbirth)

Early Thyroid Check-up is VITAL

Many of the couples who have “unexplained infertility” may be suffering from low-grade hypothyroidism. Women with fertility issues should be checked for thyroid disorders.

Untreated and/or neglected thyroid disorders affect not only women’s fertility but also the growth and development of a fetus and can even cause a baby to be born with birth defects. If you suspect you have a thyroid issue, it is important to confirm it and then proceed with treating your thyroid problems before moving forward with possible fertility treatments.

Blood testing is used to detect thyroid issues. Though these tests are not routinely administered, couples who are experiencing a fertility challenge should know that there are tests to detect anti-thyroid autoantibodies. These tests may turn out to be positive even in totally asymptomatic individuals. If positive, the tests reveal a thyroid problem that can be quickly solved through the use of an oral thyroid medication.

What are Some Natural Ways to Supplement Your Thyroid Function

Here are some natural ways you can supplement your thyroid medical treatment and support proper thyroid function:

  • Eat foods rich in iodine. Your body needs a certain amount of iodine although too much can cause goiters. Foods that are naturally high in iodine include:
    • Cranberries
    • Whole fat yogurt (i.e. Greek yogurt)
    • Navy beans
    • Strawberries
    • Potatoes with skin left on
    • Himalayan crystal sea sal
  • Eat food rich in key nutrients. There are key nutrients that support the thyroid as thyroid hormones are produced from iodine and tyrosine:
    • Zinc in combination with Vitamin E and A
    • Selected B vitamins and Vitamin C
    • Zinc, copper, and selenium
  • Reduce stress. Stress plays a role in thyroid function. Chronic stress aggravates the adrenal glands, which can put the body into a state of catabolism (the breakdown of our bodies in the form of a destructive metabolism). Over time the body will slow the thyroid down as a way to protect itself. Adrenal fatigue can lead to thyroid issues, infertility, and a compromised immune system. 

In Summary

Addressing thyroid issues before you conceive is important for the mother’s health as well as the baby. If you suspect you have a thyroid issue or if you’ve been trying to conceive for over a year, be sure to have a thyroid check-up. Take care of yourself by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and keeping your stress levels down.

Want to learn more about your suspected or existing thyroid disorders and their impact on your fertility? Opionato offers confidential, affordable, and personalized advice about your fertility next steps. Click here to try Opionato for free.

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