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Thyroid Issues and Fertility: How They Are Connected?

Katlyn Joy |28, February 2015


For some time we have known that a malfunctioning thyroid impacts reproductive systems, but a new study makes this clearer. According to the report published in January 23's British medical journal The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, 2.3 percent of women with fertility problems also had an overactive thyroid, compared to 1.5 percent in the general population.

One of the authors of the study, Amanda Jefferys of the Bristol Center for Reproductive Medicine at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England said, "Abnormalities in thyroid function can have an adverse effect on reproductive health and result in reduced rates of conception, increased miscarriage risk and adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes."

According to the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Mary M. Gallenberg, hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid, means your thyroid isn't producing enough hormones and this can contribute to or cause infertility. Low thyroid hormone levels with interfere with ovulation and so treating hypothyroidism is an important part of treating infertility. Sometimes hypothyroidism is caused by another health condition such as an autoimmune or pituitary disorder, so that underlying condition must be addressed as well.

Another problem hypothyroidism can cause is cysts to form on the ovaries, impairing reproductive function. Also, hypothyroidism can increase production of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, and when that occurs, ovulation may be impacted.

Another important issue for women with hypothyroidism is that the condition creates a risk of miscarriage that is four times higher than for women without the thyroid problem. Should you have an underactive thyroid, your physician will need to monitor your pregnancy and medication to help prevent pregnancy loss and to adequately control your disorder.

A concern for the offspring of women with untreated hypothyroidism is that children from such pregnancies have a higher risk of developmental issues and lowered IQ levels. Other medical problems are more likely to occur such as preeclampsia, impaired fetal growth, prematurity and stillbirths.

Treatment during pregnancy is critical due to these issues, and most women with hypothyroidism will need higher doses of their thyroid medication during pregnancy due to higher estrogen levels.

How do I know if I have a thyroid problem?

Of women in reproductive years, an estimated .5 percent have hypothyroidism. This usually results in both menstrual problems and trouble becoming pregnant or ovulating. Should the disorder start earlier in life, the onset of sexual maturity may be delayed all together.

Should a women have menstrual difficulties or disorders, recurrent pregnancy loss, or difficulty becoming pregnant, a routine test for thyroid function is a simple first step. Sometimes it's as simple as taking a daily pill to correct the situation, and leads to successful pregnancy.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include the following:

  • Feeling run-down or sluggish
  • Constipated
  • More sensitive to the cold
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry and pale skin
  • Hoarseness
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Excessive bleeding during periods
  • High "bad" or LDL cholesterol levels

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism include:

  • Eating more than usual
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat, or feeling like your heart is pounding in your chest
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or sleeping difficulties
  • Increased perspiration
  • Trembling hands or fingers
  • Heightened sensitivity to heat
  • Less frequent menstrual periods and lighter bleeding with periods
  • Muscle weakness
  • More frequent bowel movements

Usually only a blood test will be needed and a medical history taken to diagnose a thyroid disorder. If you have ovulation, menstrual or infertility problems, you should be checked for thyroid disorder. Other factors may predispose you to thyroid disease. These include having a goiter, prematurely gray hair, Type 1 diabetes, pernicious anemia, and vitiglio.

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lizzy success May 2, 2017 08:11:02 AM ET

This is a good site and educative to both men and women.

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