Are you concerned your thyroid is influencing your fertility? Solving thyroid problems before conceiving is more important than you think! The thyroid is an important gland for fertility. Hormonal imbalance can act as a trigger for thyroid problems. Before we begin to learn different ways thyroid issues may affect your fertility, it is important to know how the thyroid functions.
The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland. It is located just below the larynx, in the lower part of the neck. The purpose of the thyroid gland is to take iodine from foods we consume and convert them into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine. The thyroid combines iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T4 and T3. T4 and T3, once released into the blood stream control our metabolism. The thyroid is also responsible for proper growth, development and repair of the body. It is extremely important for the development of the central nervous system. The metabolism of every single cell in our body is dependent on thyroid hormones. The thyroid produces about 80% T4 and 20% T3, but T3 has four times the strength of T4
The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is controlled by the hypothalamus. When thyroid hormones drop too low, the pituitary gland releases Thyroid Stimulation Hormone (TSH). The release of TSH stimulates the thyroid to release more T3 and T4. Healthy regulatory release of T3 & T4 signal the pituitary to decrease the release of TSH. The hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to release TSH through the release of TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH). All of this can be confusing. To break it down into simpler terms, imagine it like this: The hypothalamus is like you, a person who can control the thermostat in your home. The thermostat is the pituitary, and the heat is thyroid hormones. As the heat rises (thyroid hormones) it signals the thermostat (pituitary) to shut off. As the heat decreases, it signals the thermostat to run again. The control person (hypothalamus) sets the thermostat (pituitary) to a regulate the heat (thyroid).
Thyroid Disease and Fertility
Whether you suspect a thyroid problem or know you already have a thyroid issue, there are some significant symptoms associated with fertility. Below we have listed those symptoms in relation to fertility only. There are many other signs and symptoms associated with the below thyroid diseases. If you suspect a thyroid issue, please research each pattern of disease more and discuss it with your doctor.
Overactive tissue in the thyroid gland that leads to overproduction of thyroid hormones. This is most commonly caused by inflammation of the thyroid, called thyroiditis. This can be caused by a variety of reasons and may lead to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis .
Fertility Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism for Women
- Loss of libido
- Amenorrhea (Absent Period)
- Postpartum thyroiditis, occurs in 7% of women within the first year after childbirth
Fertility Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism for Men
- Abnormal enlargement of the mammary glands in males
- Loss of libido
This is when the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones. This commonly happens when there is iodine deficiency. Hypothyroidism happens in women more often than men.
Fertility Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism for Women
- Female infertility
- Any type of problem with the menstrual cycle
- Hyperprolactenimia (elevated prolactin hormone)
- Galactorrhea (flow of milk in the absence of pregnancy or childbirth)
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Low Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
For Men, uncommon signs that show up affecting fertility:
- Decreased libido in men; creates impairment of testicular testosterone synthesis
- Abnormal enlargement of the mammary glands in males
Untreated, or poorly treated hypothyroidism may cause serious complications for pregnancy, in both the mother and the baby. Because Hashimoto’s thyroditis may lead to hypothyroidism, these risks for complications fall under that thyroid problem as well.
Complications for the mother:
- Anemia (iron deficiency)
- Placental abruption (placenta detaches from wall of uterus pre-term)
- Postpartum hemorrhage
Complications for the baby:
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Thyroid Problems
- Birth defects
This thyroid disease is a chronic autoimmune disorder. The thyroid gland is destroyed by cell and antibody immune response. As the thyroid gland is attacked, the thyroid function decreases, less and less thyroid hormones are released which leads to Hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s main fertility symptom is infertility. Hashimoto’s is 7 times more common in women than men.
Some women experience thyroid issues after pregnancy, around 7%. 20% of those women that experience hyperthyroidism will develop Hashimoto’s thyroditis. For these women, the thyroid becomes overactive due to inflammation and then this triggers an immune response. The immune response attacks the thyroid, which eventually decreases its function and leads to hypothyroidism. Doctors still do not know why autoimmune diseases happen.
It is important to treat thyroid problems right away if you are wanting to have a baby. Preconception planning is essential to a healthy pregnancy for women with thyroid problems. Women with untreated or neglected thyroid problems may affect their baby’s growth and brain development. Untreated thyroid problems may also lead to infertility, miscarriage, or a baby born with birth defects. It is important to see a doctor about thyroid issues.
Reduce Stress, Support the Adrenal Glands
How does stress have an impact in thyroid function?
We live in a time where there is more chronic stress than ever. Our adrenal glands can handle acute stressful situations with no problem, but they cannot handle chronic stress. Chronic stress taxes our adrenals. When our adrenals have a lot of stress placed on them it puts our body into a state of catabolism. Catabolism is the break-down of our bodies; destructive metabolism. Over time the body will slow down the thyroid as a protective measure. Many natural health care practitioners will agree that in order to treat the thyroid effectively, you must first address stress reduction and adrenal support. Adrenal fatigue may lead to not only thyroid issues, but a compromised immune system as well.
If you are a person that has a stressful life, have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue, or have found your body is not responding as well as you thought to thyroid medications or natural supplements; consider supporting your adrenal glands as well!
In order to fully support your body through stressful times, you must also learn methods of coping with stress in a health and positive way!
“Thyroid disease is a disorder that, left untreated, can exact pronounced consequences on health and quality of life…Long-term, untreated thyroid conditions significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoperosis, reproductive cancer, and multisystem failure.”
The key to getting pregnant and carrying to term successfully, in the best health, is to address thyroid issues prior to conception. Prepare your body today!
Research signs and symptoms of thyroid problems, to help you determine if you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of a thyroid issue for you, or your male partner. Ask your doctor about testing for thyroid function if you have been trying to get pregnant for a year or more. Be sure to exercise regularly, eat a whole food diet, while working to keep stress at bay to protect your body from thyroid problems!