With the growing number of people suffering from infertility issues, there are physical and hormonal issues that affect fertility in both men and women. One such hormone is the thyroid hormone that affects fertility. Undetected thyroid malfunction often makes it challenging to conceive and can also cause complications during pregnancy as well. Many ignore this issue but it sure does affect fertility. Here are 10 FAQs relating to thyroid and infertility.
1. How does thyroid affect fertility?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of the neck, and functions in reaction to the pituitary gland within the endocrine system. The pituitary gland generates a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which triggers the thyroid to produce T3 and T4 hormones. Thyroid problems usually result when the production of T3 and T4 is high or low. Those thyroid imbalances can create fertility issues. The problems due to the imbalance of thyroid hormone can cause an increased rate of ovulatory disorders, irregular periods, pregnancy loss, and preterm birth along with lower or decreased IQs.
2. Which thyroid disorders are most generally associated with fertility?
A characteristic result in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism is the abnormality in the hormone level. Overproduction of the thyroid hormones leads to hyperthyroidism. People who suffer from hyperthyroidism may suffer from weight loss, anxiety, intolerance to heat, tremors and rapid heart rate, more frequent bowel movements, and brittle hair. Infertility symptoms can involve loss of libido and menstrual cycle irregularities. The under-production of thyroid hormones causes hypothyroidism. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, cold intolerance, low energy, depression, dry skin, and constipation. Infertility symptoms can involve cycles being heavier and less frequent which are clear signs of menstrual cycle abnormalities, a low Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and difficulty conceiving. Assessment of the symptoms is a challenge as most of these signs may be clear indicators of other fertility problems.
3. Are there any other fertility issues that are associated with thyroid?
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid problems are usually diagnosed together as both include abnormal hormone levels. But when the hormones are balanced or brought to the normal level it leads to a significantly increased chance of conceiving.
4. Does thyroid disorders also affect male fertility?
Yes, it does affect men as well. Hypothyroidism in men usually leads to several fertility issues like sperm defects and reduced sperm volume and motility (movement), a lower libido and erectile dysfunction, and decreased male fertility hormones such as testosterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). If there is suspicion for thyroid issues, it is recommended to undergo a comprehensive thyroid testing routine.
5. How is the thyroid problem detected?
A simple blood test is what it takes to assess the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Normal TSH levels are 0.5 to 2.5mU/L, with higher levels being associated with hyperthyroidism and lower levels associated with hypothyroidism. If the hormone levels fall outside normal ranges, T4 tests are also conducted to assess further.
6. How is the thyroid problem treated?
Generally, for people who have hypothyroidism, doctors usually advise medicines of the hormone that is lacking to rectify the low levels. Levothyroxine (Synthroid) is the most common medicine advised to rectify the problem. Patients may suffer from innumerable symptoms while their thyroid levels balance out, however mostly their symptoms get resolved. It is worth noting that Levothyroxine on its own has no major side effects. The more difficult and complex treatment of the endocrine problems is hyperthyroidism. The usual options of treatment involve medication like methimazole and propylthiouracil, surgery for removal of the thyroid and radioactive iodine, and several other procedures.
7. Are there home remedies or self-care methods to treat thyroid problems?
Like every other health issue, a healthy lifestyle always boosts fertility. It is the excess weight that can add to hormonal imbalances, thus putting ovulation in women and causing hormone imbalance in men as well. Following a healthy routine like regular exercise, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake, controlling caffeine intake and leading a less stressful life are some of the best ways to promote a healthy body. Additionally, eating a healthy diet that is rich in iodine, whole grains, veggies, and lean protein can also help. Sometimes doctors may also advise natural supplements such as Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Zinc.
8. Does it take time to rectify thyroid problems?
Well, this will depend on the levels of hormonal imbalance and also dependent on the presence of any other medical issues. Thyroid problems that are moderate usually do not include an added medical diagnosis and hormone levels can be usually resolved in a few months.
9. What are the treatments involved in treating infertility due to thyroid issues?
Firstly, before the prescription of any fertility treatment, the thyroid hormone levels should be brought to normal balance. This treatment is all that will be required for some patients as natural conception may happen when the thyroid starts functioning normally.
10. What are the precautions that should be taken during pregnancy?
Generally, the required dose increases during pregnancy if you are under levothyroxine medication, yet, since there are few risks to the pregnancy it is usually continued until the hormonal balance is rectified. Although, for hyperthyroid medications, there are documented birth defects that may be associated with the use of medications, so it is recommended that one consult with a maternal-fetal medicine doctor prior to pregnancy as it is important to be monitored carefully and frequently during pregnancy period.
Hypothyroidism has a higher risk of pregnancy loss, whereas hyperthyroidism usually causes pre-term labor issues and low birth weight. Yet it is noteworthy that the diagnosis of a thyroid problem does not mean that it will make a woman infertile because many women who have thyroid issues also give birth to healthy babies, yet it is imperative to go to one’s doctor for regular monitoring and check-ups.
Doctors at Aspire Fertility Centre is always open to answer any queries that you have, feel free to drop-in to the clinic or write to us and ask the doctors for expert advice.