Thyroid Problems And Infertility

Thyroid Problems And Infertility

There are several different problems that women can have regarding the thyroid, although the ones most likely to cause problems with infertility and pregnancy are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

If you have either an over (hyperthyroidism) or under (hypothyroidism) achieving thyroid, you could have various issues, but to a woman who is trying to conceive, the problems regarding infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy difficulties, may be of prime concern. Any woman who wants to become pregnant would be advised to have a full thyroid evaluation, but even more so if she has experienced any of the following problems:

  • Trying to conceive without success for 6 months or more
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Family history of thyroid issues
  • Have had two or more miscarriages

    According to the American Thyroid Association, there are approximately 20 million Americans who have some form of thyroid condition during their lifetime and up to 60% of them are totally unaware of their condition. Women are around 5 to 8 times more likely to encounter some type of thyroid disorder than a man, and 1 in 8 women will actually develop a type of thyroid disorder at some point in her life. Also, women who are already pregnant and suffer from hypothyroidism, but have not yet been diagnosed or are being inadequately treated for the disease, are at a greater risk of having a miscarriage, severe developmental problems in their child or preterm delivery.

    What is Hypothyroidism?

    Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive and does not produce enough hormones that are so important for the body’s various needs, and the functions of the body begin slowing down. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

    • Inability to get pregnant
    • Muscle weakness
    • Depression
    • Sensitivity to cold
    • Memory loss
    • Joint and/or muscle pain
    • Hair loss
    • Varied menstrual difficulties and/or disorders (including excessive bleeding)
    • Hoarse voice
    • Coarse, dry hair
    • Miscarriages
    • Constipation
    • An increase in weight, despite not eating more than usual
    • Feeling very fatigued
    • Pale and dry skin
    • Recurrent infections
    • A puffy face
    • Decreased libido
    • Muscle or joint pain
    • High LDL cholesterol (some call it “bad” cholesterol) which can increase your risk for heart disease

    Hypothyroidism is most often caused by Hashimoto’s disease, but can also be caused by removal of the thyroid itself, thyroiditis, treatment of hyperthyroidism, or radiation treatment of certain types of cancer. Much less often it can also be caused by certain autoimmune disorders, too little or too much iodine in the diet or in some cases, certain problems with the pituitary gland. In addition, there are several drugs that can sometimes cause hypothyroidism and they include:

    • Lithium (a bipolar disorder)
    • Amiodarone (a heart medication)
    • Interleukin-2 (a cancer medication)
    • Interferon Alpha (another cancer medication)

    The most common ways for hypothyroidism to affect a woman’s fertility includes but is not limited to the following:

    • High levels of prolactin: which causes either irregular ovulation or none at all
    • Anovulatory Cycles: this causes no egg to be released
    • Higher risk of miscarriage: the risk of miscarriage with this condition is four times greater than for a woman without a thyroid issue
    • Luteal Phase problems: a fertilized egg is unable to implant securely, which leads it to leave the body at the same time as a woman’s period would occur, and is mistaken for a regular menstrual cycle and is instead a very, very early miscarriage
    • Can cause cysts to form on the ovaries: this can cause impairment of reproductive function
    • And also different hormonal imbalances: these other imbalances can interfere with a proper reproductive hormonal balance

    The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is medication. There are several different medicines available, although the most commonly used is levothyroxine, a man-made form of T4, which is exactly like the T4 that is made by your thyroid. Figuring out the correct dosage, however, is not always easy and can often take quite a bit of time.

    Getting hypothyroidism under control is very important, not only because of the effect that it can have on a woman’s fertility, but also because if left untreated, it can cause serious and irreversible harm to a developing fetus. This can be something such as impaired psychomotor development (meaning mental and motor) or a lowered IQ. It can also cause preeclampsia, stillbirth, miscarriage, low birth weight, anemia or congestive heart failure. Also, in rare cases, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a life-threatening condition called, myxedema coma.

    Hyperthyroidism causes the thyroid gland to be overactive, which creates more of the thyroid hormones than the body needs. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Sensitivity to heat
    • Weight loss (despite the fact that you may actually be eating more than usual)
    • Irritability
    • Having bowel movements more frequently
    • Pounding of your heart, or irregular or rapid heartbeat
    • Trembling in your hands and/or fingers
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Less frequent menstrual periods accompanied by a lighter flow than normal
    • Anxiety
    • Increase in perspiration
    • Atrial fibrillation (which can lead to strokes)
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Various ocular problems (eyelid retraction or stare, lid lag, etc.)

    Hyperthyroidism is most often caused by Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune disorder. It can also be caused by Plummer’s disease, excess iodine, benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland, taking large quantities of tetraiodothyronine, inflammation of the thyroid gland or tumors of the ovaries or testes.

    The ways that hyperthyroidism can affect a woman’s fertility include:

    • Irregular periods or even a complete lack of them (which causes no egg to be released)
    • Shorter luteal phases
    • Increased risk of miscarriage

    The most often used treatments for hyperthyroidism are:

    • Medication: this can include antithyroid medicines as well as the addition of beta blockers
    • Radioiodine treatment
    • Surgery: in this case you may have part or all of your thyroid removed

    Hyperthyroidism left untreated during pregnancy can lead to problems such as:

    • Preeclampsia
    • Miscarriage
    • Low birth weight
    • A spike in blood pressure during the latter part of the pregnancy
    • Premature birth

    There is also a very severe, life-threatening form of hyperthyroidism called, a thyroid storm. This severe form has incredibly high levels of thyroid hormones, which can not only create problems during a pregnancy, but can also cause issues such as:

    • Dehydration
    • High fever
    • Irregular or rapid heart rate
    • Diarrhea
    • Shock and even death (if left untreated)
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