Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your throat. It plays a crucial role in influencing metabolism, temperature, growth, and development, via the production of thyroid hormones. The main thyroid hormones are thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
Whilst many are aware that the imbalance of these hormones could cause changes in weight and mood, not quite so many of you know that your thyroid can also affect your fertility and menstrual cycle. If you think of your thyroid as a conductor in an orchestra, conducting many different instruments (organs) as they play their music (produce hormones), then it’s easier to understand how if one your organs is off key, it tends to mess up the whole song.
If your cycles are out of sync or you’re trying to conceive, it’s probably a good idea to check your thyroid is in tune and working optimally.
What are thyroid disorders?
About 2-4% of women of reproductive age struggle with a thyroid imbalance. When your thyroid is underactive, it is known as hypothyroidism. The main symptoms of hypothyroidism are weight gain, thinning hair, severe fatigue, slowed heart rate, depression, decreased libido, and sensitivity to cold.
When your thyroid is overactive, it is known as hyperthyroidism. These two issues are like yin and yang, so the main symptoms of this are pretty much the opposite of hypothyroidism. That is, rapid weight loss, increased appetite, increased sensitivity to heat, frequent bowel movements, menstrual irregularities and irritability. Also not ideal.
How can thyroid dysfunctions affect your reproductive health?
Thyroid disorders can mess with your metabolism, as well as disrupt your hormones in general. The hormonal issues that arise as a result can include anovulation, or the inability to ovulate, as well as luteal phase defects, hyperproalctinemia, and general sex hormone imbalance. As the thyroid plays a crucial role in growth and development, a healthy thyroid is necessary for maintaining a healthy pregnancy as well.
Is there a connection with your thyroid and fertility?
While thyroid issues are problematic, they are a confounding factor in your fertility, rather than a direct problem. For example, when a car blocks you in and you can’t leave, it's not an issue with your car, but rather the other car in your way. Same goes for this - fertility resolves once the thyroid problem resolves. One study demonstrated that 76% of women who fixed their thyroid were able to conceive between 6 weeks to 1 year afterwards.
Testing your thyroid levels is the best place to start to help you understand whether you may be suffering from a thyroid disorder. In hypothyroidism, TSH would be high, while T3 and T4 would be low. With hyperthyroidism, the opposite is true, and TSH would be low, while T3 and T4 would be high.
Once you have an understanding of where your thyroid stands, you can then treat this issue, which is primarily done with oral medication. Hypothyroidism is typically treated with thyroxine (T4) replacement, and Cytomel, or T3 replacement, may also be required in specific cases. Hyperthyroidism is a bit more complicated, and is treated with antithyroid medication, iodine, or surgery. Sometimes, drugs known as beta-blockers are used as well. It is important to find an endocrinologist that you trust, and possibly to even get a second opinion, if you feel like there is an issue with the treatment you’ve been prescribed.
If this has got you scratching your head about your own thyroid levels or questioning your overall fertility, Hertility Health are here to fill in the blanks. With our at-home tests we can give you a better insight into your health, and if this little gland isn’t in check, we’ll lead you down the path to fixing it.
If you’re ready to start tracking your fertility, or have any questions about your overall female health, we’d love to help you out. Why not join our waitlist and we’ll let you know when we’re live so we can help guide you along the fertility path.