Thyroid & Infertility
If you are having difficulty conceiving, have experienced recurrent miscarriages, have a family history of thyroid conditions, or are struggling with a multitude of symptoms, your fertility doctor may indicate a thyroid disorder as a possibility. A thyroid disorder can involve either an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Thyroid dysfunction (whether too high or too low) can affect the growth of follicles, implantation, and early pregnancy.During pregnancy, thyroid issues are associated with an increased risk of problems — including miscarriage, preeclampsia, poor fetal growth, and premature birth.
If you are undergoing IUI or IVF treatment, the best course of action is to begin with a thyroid check.
What is hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)?
With hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormones. In turn, this can lead to irregular menstrual cycles and/or impact ovulation, which can affect your ability to conceive. This condition may also cause cysts to form on your ovaries and increase your prolactin levels (the lactation hormone). Untreated hypothyroidism has also been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage — almost 4 times the risk of someone who doesn’t have a thyroid condition.
Treatment is usually medication. However, there are various other types of therapy (ranging from desiccated or synthetic to combination therapy).
What is hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)?
Hyperthyroidism occurs when you have an excess of thyroid hormones circulating in your body. If left untreated, it can cause irregular menstrual cycles, lighter periods, difficulty conceiving and pregnancy loss. In men, it can cause a low sperm count, poor sperm quality and low volume or morphology — resulting in reduced fertility. Research published in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in 2015 found that 2.3 percent of women with fertility challenges had hyperthyroidism. Treatment may include medication, radioactive iodine, or surgery.
Common symptoms of a thyroid disorder
The thyroid gland affects every system in the body. In hypothyroidism, things down down, so this can cause fatigue, brain fog, constipation, weight gain, insomnia, hair loss and more. In hyperthyroidism, everything speeds up so it can cause sweating, heat intolerance, increased bowel movements, nervousness, anxiety, rapid heart rate, weight loss, fatigue and more. Both impact ovulation — and ultimately, the ability to get pregnant and avoid miscarraige. If you have a family history of hypothyroidism, are struggling with symptoms, or are having difficulty conceiving, your best defence is to get your thyroid levels tested.
Getting a diagnosis before fertility treatment
Your thyroid is located at the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. This small, butterfly-shaped gland, produces two key hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) – and it influences everything from your metabolism and brain function, to your body temperature and heart rate. Thyroid dysfunction can be detected by a simple blood test which looks at Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Your doctor may also order Free T4, Free T3 and thyroid antibodies test to determine if there is autoimmune disease.
Natural Treatment for Thyroid Disorders
Thyroid dysfunction is often influenced by various imbalances, including: nutrient deficiencies, adrenal fatigue, autoimmunity, poor gut health, food sensitivities, malabsorption, toxic load (ie. high heavy metals). An excess of certain hormones, such as cortisol (the stress hormone) or estrogen, can also impact levels of bioavailable thyroid hormone. Whether you are already on thyroid medication, or experiencing what is known as subclinical thyroid dysfunction (symptoms with normal bloodwork), your Conceive Health naturopath will customize a preconception protocol to support your thyroid function. The focus may include:
An assessment of your thyroid function
Specific vitamins or minerals
Botanicals for thyroid & adrenal function
Reducing antibodies and inflammation
Improving T4 to T3 conversion
Addressing other hormonal imbalances
Contact us today to book an initial appointment and get on your way to balancing your thyroid hormones — and growing your family.
Common Questions About Thyroid & Fertility
Below you will find the answers to commonly asked questions about thyroid disorders.
Can hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism be cured?
- More often than not it can be managed, rather than ‘cured’. However, it truly depends on the cause. If you are experiencing what is known as “subclinical hypothyroidism” with a TSH in normal range (but perhaps high-normal), it can likely be corrected, without medications.
Does thyroid dysfunction cause infertility (or vice versa)?
- Fertility and infertility is influenced by thyroid problems, rather than the other way around.
Can acupuncture help with thyroid dysfunction?
Acupuncture can improve hormone balance by reducing stress (which indirectly helps thyroid), boosting metabolism, and increasing energy. It’s considered a useful addition to an overall thyroid balancing protocol.
Are different protocols needed during fertility treatment?
- This largely depends on the cause of the thyroid condition. For example, your Conceive Health naturopath will address any underlying deficiciences, such as low zinc or vitamin D levels. If thyroid antibodies are high then certain supplements, such as selenium, may be prescribed. If you have been diagnosed with Hashimotos and are undergoing fertility treatment then your naturopathic protocol will focus on reducing immune overactivity. This can include specific supplements, dietary changes, gut support and removal of food sensitivities/allergies. Overall, for fertility patients, our goal is to have little to no symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and the TSH to be under 2.5, depending on the lab.