In this article:
- Low testosterone and libido
- How to manage sexual dysfunction
- Fostering communication with your partner
- Navigating fatigue and other symptoms
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormones. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are far-reaching and can include fatigue, depression, and weight gain. These symptoms can be overbearing for many who suffer from an underactive thyroid, but what often gets overlooked or under-discussed is how hypothyroidism can take its toll on the most intimate part of a person's life—their sex life.
As many as 63 percent of people with a thyroid disorder experience sexual dysfunction before treatment. Males and females both can experience low testosterone levels, which affect libido and sexual function. Females also experience higher hormone prolactin levels. Elevated prolactin causes low estrogen which can cause vaginal dryness and lead to painful sex.
Even without acute sexual dysfunction, the general feeling of malaise associated with hypothyroidism is enough for a person to lack the desire for intimacy. Learning how to maintain a healthy sex life with hypothyroidism may be helpful, especially if it's important for you and your partner.
Strategies to maintain a healthy sex life with hypothyroidism
Although it may be obvious, if you have hypothyroidism, some sexual problems come secondary to your thyroid condition. They can subside with proper treatment and ongoing management. Upon diagnosis and discussion with a thyroid doctor, most people with hypothyroidism choose to take thyroid hormone replacement medication. This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, which helps to improve signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
When you begin a new thyroid medication or change doses, you should test your thyroid function after six to eight weeks. After that, we recommend you check your thyroid hormone levels every six months. It's essential to maintain continuous care with a thyroid doctor and relay any ongoing symptoms.
Thyroid hormone replacement medication shouldn't cause side effects when used in the appropriate dose. Signs of too much thyroid hormone can include:
- Increased appetite
- Heart palpitations
Certain medications, supplements, and even some foods may affect your ability to absorb your thyroid medication. Talk to your doctor if you take other medicines like:
- Iron supplements or multivitamins that contain iron
- Aluminum hydroxide, found in some antacids
- Calcium supplements
Your thyroid medication is best taken on an empty stomach at the same time every day. Wait three to four hours before eating or taking other medications or supplements to give your medication time to absorb properly.
Communicate openly with your partner
For you and your partner to maintain a healthy sex life, they must understand what hypothyroidism is and how it affects you. Depending on your communication style, you could have a conversation or send them an article explaining the complications of hypothyroidism. This understanding will allow them to understand the condition and ways you can overcome it together.
Additionally, even if your partner understands hypothyroidism well, it's worth communicating your frustrations and issues about intimacy with your partner. This openness will welcome a sense of empathy into your relationship. By doing so, you can avoid anger or hurt feelings caused by assumptions that, for example, you don't desire them or want to have sex. Together, you can find solutions, whether taking Viagra pills for men or personal lubricants for women to alleviate sexual dysfunction or painful sex.
Hear from Dr. Lyndsey Harper of Rosy and Dr. Hanisha Patel of Mahan Health about the connection between thyroid function and sex drive, and how to revive your libido.
Take care of yourself
Foundational things like proper sleep, hydration, and gentle exercise can help with symptom alleviation and overall wellness. Weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism which can negatively affect overall self-esteem and disrupt one's regular self-care practice. Also, the fatigue associated with hypothyroidism can make it challenging to prioritize self-care in the first place. Still, your self-care does not have to look like other people's self-care. For example, people who develop hypothyroidism often can't handle vigorous exercise. Exercise should be gentle and preferably low-impact. Things as simple as taking a gentle walk, swimming, riding a bike, or practicing yoga are all great ways to reap the many benefits of exercise without it taking a toll on energy levels.
Valuing sleep is another critical way to manage hypothyroid symptoms, and the best part is, it's relatively effortless. Try sticking to a predictable sleep schedule and getting as much as you can allow yourself. If you have to take an afternoon nap, embrace it! Try an eye mask, blackout curtains, earplugs, comfortable bedding, or temperature control. These are avenues to better rest that can allow you to feel and perform your best both in and outside the bedroom.
Allow for other forms of intimacy
Romance isn't just sex! Try taking intimacy out of the bedroom and into other parts of your relationship. Romantic gestures like cuddling, bathing together, skinny dipping, or sharing a candlelit dinner can take the pressure off of any sexual dysfunction by allowing romance to exist outside of the bedroom too. Consider creating undistracted time with your partner for romance to show them that even if libido is low, you still value your partnership.
Suppose you're worried about how hypothyroidism is affecting your sex life. In that case, you can take a thyroid blood test to understand how your thyroid is working. Many doctors only look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Still, it's also helpful to measure free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies. These four markers help you understand what's happening with your thyroid function and where in particular to make improvements.
Work with a trustworthy thyroid doctor who can assess your symptoms, history, and lab results to determine the best treatment plan for you.