New Delhi: The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in the front of our neck that produces hormones in order to regulate metabolism and thus, it affects vital functions. Whereas fertility refers to the ability to conceive and bring a baby to term. Therefore, the inter-link between your thyroid health and fertility is an important and complex part of conception, says Dr Hima Deepthi, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Hyderabad. Undiagnosed and untreated thyroid disease can be a potential cause for infertility as well as sub-fertility, she points out.
Dr Deepthi explains what thyroid disorder is all about, its symptoms and how hypothyroidism can affect your fertility.
Thyroid disorders refer to a group of disarrays that cause dysregulated functioning of the thyroid gland, resulting in the overproduction (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hypothyroidism) of thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4).
Some of the most common hypothyroid disorders are autoimmune conditions, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is quite predominant in women. Graves’ disease, another autoimmune condition, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can have a negative impact on fertility – both in the ability to conceive and the ability to carry a fetus to term. According to a study in the Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research, 2 to 4 per cent of women of childbearing age have low thyroid hormone levels, which shows the prevalence of fertility issues caused by hypothyroidism. This thyroid disorder can affect fertility due to ovulatory cycles, luteal phase defects, hyperprolactinemia, and sex hormone imbalance. Therefore, normal thyroid levels are vital for your fertility health, pregnancy, and to sustain a healthy pregnancy, even in the earliest days post-conception. Abnormal TSH levels can interfere with ovulation and when one has any type of undiagnosed or mismanaged thyroid disorder, there is a possibility of luteal phase disruption.
This is arbitrated by progesterone levels. If a thyroid disorder is unregulated, a patient could have difficulty getting pregnant because of low implantation chances. In a few cases experiencing miscarriages because of incomplete implantations is also a prospect. Signs of low levels or malfunctioning of progesterone can include a shorter or longer cycle than your typical menstrual cycle and one can experience lighter or heavier bleeding in comparison to the regular one. This also means longer or shorter windows for bleeding than the typical ones.
Furthermore, fertility is not a female-only concern, but usually more prevalent in women. Thyroid disorders in men can also affect a couple’s overall fertility health. Dysregulated thyroid function can damage sperm quality and motility, making it challenging for the sperm to enter the egg for implantation.
Below are a few concerns that can be caused due to underproduction of Thyroid hormone:
Disruption of the menstrual cycle, owning to a difficult conception
Interference with ovulation
Intensified risk of miscarriage
Increased possibility of premature birth
Awareness & Symptoms:
Recent studies show that approximately 1 in 10 Indian adults suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the basic requirements of the body to ensure smooth functioning. This condition proved to be twice as prevalent in women as in men and is common amongst women of child-bearing age. This can often be detected with a simple blood test of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Yet many women remain undiagnosed, especially women with ill-defined, subclinical hypothyroidism. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include the following:
Frequent and heavy menstrual cycles:
Dry skin and hair
Intolerance to cold
Therefore, one should keep a regular check on the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 levels, specifically prior to becoming pregnant. This is especially essential if someone has been diagnosed with low thyroid hormones already or have had a miscarriage. Amongst high-risk factors include a family history of thyroid problems or any other autoimmune disease. Tackling hypothyroid symptoms early in the pregnancy planning stages eases the treatment process, which can lead to a more successful outcome.