Can a Thyroid Condition Cause Infertility?
If you are one of the 11% of women of reproductive age in the U.S. having fertility challenges, you likely have questions about the underlying cause. Hormonal dysfunction may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but medical conditions involving hormonal imbalances are more common than you might think. One example of a condition directly linked with infertility is thyroid disease. The good news is that most common thyroid conditions are treatable.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland that manufactures hormones secreted into the blood. Hormones carry signals that regulate many bodily functions, including reproduction. When the thyroid produces too many or not enough hormones, it can cause thyroid disease. There is a direct link between thyroid dysfunction and normal fertility. Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common causes of infertility, but It can be easily managed by adjusting your thyroid hormones.
How the Thyroid Affects Female Infertility
Thyroid hormones influence the release of the egg from the ovary during the monthly menstrual cycle (ovulation). When there are not enough or too many thyroid hormones, it can interfere with the normal ovulation cycle. Fertilization is difficult when the ovulation cycle is irregular.
Types of Thyroid Dysfunction
A thyroid condition may involve various disorders, including:
- An underactive thyroid that doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism)
- An overactive thyroid that produces too many hormones (hyperthyroidism, often in the form of Grave’s disease)
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
- Inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis)
- Thyroid nodules (fluid-filled lumps that develop in the thyroid)
Common Symptoms of Thyroid Dysfunction
A malfunctioning thyroid can interfere with your ability to get pregnant and have a normal pregnancy. An untreated or undiagnosed thyroid condition can cause:
- A longer or shorter menstrual cycle than you typically have
- Heavier or lighter menstrual bleeding than you normally experience
- A longer or shorter bleeding period than you usually have
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- An increased risk of miscarriage or premature birth
- Heavy, frequent menstrual cycles
- Interference with ovulation
- Weight gain
- Dry hair and skin
- Muscle soreness
- Cold intolerance
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease) include:
- Lighter than usual, irregular menstrual periods
- An increased risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy
- A greater risk of premature birth
- Sensitivity to heat and an increase in sweating
- Weight loss
- Goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
Treatment for Infertility Linked with Thyroid Dysfunction
Thyroid dysfunction can be easily managed with medication that regulates your thyroid hormones. Your healthcare provider will keep a close eye on your thyroid hormone levels before, during, and after pregnancy.
Antithyroid drugs, such as Propylthiouracil (PTU), are given during pregnancy for those with hyperthyroidism. If you are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), you may require a higher dose of thyroid hormone during pregnancy, such as levothyroxine (L-thyroxine). Levothyroxine provides your baby with an adequate supply of thyroid hormones.
Remember that even if your thyroid function tests are not completely within normal levels when you get pregnant, you still have a great chance of having a healthy baby. But it’s essential to seek medical attention as early as possible to have your thyroid medication adjusted.
Fertility Care Options for Women with Thyroid Conditions
Getting your thyroid hormone levels stable is the first step in enhancing your fertility. After your initial consultation and lab work, the next phase involves working with a fertility specialist to create a plan to enhance your chances of getting pregnant. Your fertility care plan may include:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): a fertility treatment that improves the chance of the sperm reaching the egg for fertilization
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): fertilization involving combining the egg and sperm in a lab
Be sure to let your fertility care team know if you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease. At The Prelude Network™, the fertility specialists who run our fertility clinics have helped many people with thyroid conditions succeed in having healthy babies! Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated patient coordinators at a Prelude fertility clinic near you.