Women may experience fertility issues for multiple reasons, and sometimes it’s challenging to pinpoint the real cause. One factor that many women with fertility issues may not have on their minds is the probability of an undiagnosed thyroid condition.
Infertility and Thyroid Problems: What’s the Connection?
The body-wide hormonal changes that hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and other menstruation issues that can impact fertility.
Both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism prevent ovulation, the monthly process in which an egg gets released to be fertilized. If an egg is not released, you can’t get pregnant, even if you have regular menstrual periods.
There are other ways that thyroid disorders can cause infertility. Hypothyroidism may cause cysts to form on the ovaries. It can also lead to increased prolactin production — the hormone that controls lactation or milk production — in women who are not pregnant. When your prolactin levels are high, you cannot ovulate.
Hypothyroidism has also been linked to a definite increase in the risk of miscarriage. Hypothyroid women are about 4 times more likely to have a miscarriage than women who are not. Women with untreated hypothyroidism are also at higher risk of having babies with slightly lower IQ levels and developmental problems.[Also Read: Control Your Thyroid Using These Natural Treatments ]
Hypothyroidism and Fertility
Hypothyroidism can be effectively treated, and once you get your thyroid levels back to a stable range, you can become pregnant. Treatment comprises taking pill form synthetic thyroid hormone.
Though it may take some months to determine the proper quantity of hormone for you, once you and your physician determine your optimal dosage, you should be feeling confident again and be able to conceive .
When hypothyroidism is the cause for infertility, taking thyroid medication will enable most women to conceive, from as soon as 6 weeks after treatment, according to a study published in the IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences of February 2015 issue.
The research also pointed out that most women who have an issue conceiving may have no clear hypothyroidism symptoms. And only mildly elevated TSH levels make it all the more critical to have a TSH blood test if you’re experiencing a tough time getting pregnant and don’t know the reason.
Another research found that treating hypothyroidism with medicines not only improved conception rates but also minimized miscarriages early in pregnancy, which can occur as a result of severe untreated hypothyroidism. Those results were published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist January 2015 issue.
[Also Read: Yoga for Fertility in Women]
Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy
Once you conceive, it’s critical to continue to monitor your thyroid hormone levels throughout your pregnancy. Your physician may need to adjust your medication dosage to keep your TSH under optimal levels. You need to be tested regularly during pregnancy. Typically, that means about 3 times.
Many of the times, mildly low thyroid hormone levels won’t impact the pregnancy or fetus. However, severe hypothyroidism can be associated with several worse outcomes, including fetal death and miscarriage.
Thus it’s crucial to continue taking your medication throughout your pregnancy — but rest assured that there’s no harm in it to the baby or you.
[Also Read: Weird Pregnancy Changes You Need to Know]
Testing for Hypothyroidism
If you’re experiencing hypothyroidism symptoms — increased sensitivity to cold, fatigue, constipation, muscle weakness, weight gain, and irregular or heavier than usual or menstrual periods in women, among others — they should get tested for the condition .
An easy blood test can clarify whether your thyroid gland is functioning optimally. The test measures the amount of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) in your bloodstream, and high levels indicate hypothyroidism, according to the ATA (American Thyroid Association).
So, should you get tested for hypothyroidism before you try to conceive? Yes, mainly because many women are waiting until they’re older to conceive. The more aged they are, the more chances they have of acquiring hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a particularly sensitive organ and fails significantly often.
[Also Read: Natural Treatments For Hypothyroidism]
Infertility and Thyroid Problems: The effect of estrogen
for women who have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, taking birth control pills with estrogen or estrogen can have a considerable impact on how much thyroid hormone you require.
Birth control pills can affect a thyroid condition because birth control pills affect the liver, producing thyroid-binding proteins that bind to thyroid hormones circulating in your blood.
The liver produces more of these proteins when hormonal medications containing estrogen and birth control pills are introduced to your body. This will impact how much thyroid hormone you require to stay symptom-free and healthy.
If you are taking thyroid medicines, the only way to adapt [to the additional proteins released by the liver from hormonal drugs like the birth control pill] is to change your thyroid medication dose. Adjustments are to be required every time the patient changes her estrogen status — going on or off the pill, or around the period of menopause.
This means that women with hypothyroidism who use birth control pills to avoid pregnancy and then stop taking the pills to get pregnant, need to talk to their physician about changes in their thyroid medicines. In the absence of birth control pills, they may not require as much thyroid hormone.
Most women with hypothyroidism also require more thyroid hormone medication while pregnant because the estrogen levels in their blood get higher.
Thyroid Problems and Infertility: Reducing Your Risk
The finest thing you can do to minimize your risk of health complications and maintain fertility is to get your thyroid problem under control as quickly as possible. Once hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism is successfully cured, you should no longer experience infertility, as long as thyroid problems were the only reason.
Infertility can have several different culprits, and a thyroid condition can be one of them. If you have a thyroid problem, talk to your physician before trying to conceive or if you’re having trouble getting pregnant.
And if you’re having issues conceiving and are otherwise normal, your physician may want to conduct few screening tests to be sure that a thyroid condition isn’t the cause.