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When your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones it can impact many of your body’s systems, including your reproductive system. Hypothyroidism can interfere with ovulation which can have a major impact on your fertility. The thyroid hormone and ovulation are closely related so it’s no surprise that hypothyroidism can affect your fertility.
If you’re trying to conceive, this condition may be impacting you more than you know. In this post, we’ll help you understand what hypothyroidism is and how it can affect your fertility. And whether you’re trying to conceive or not, we’ll go over how this condition can affect conception, and more importantly identify lifestyle changes you can make to help you overcome this common issue.
Low levels of thyroid hormones due to an underactive thyroid gland is a condition known as hypothyroidism and is found in 2-4% of women. The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located on the front of your neck and is a crucial part of the endocrine system.
Your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism by releasing triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (TF), and calcitonin. The release of these hormones is triggered by a signal from the pituitary gland via thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When this gland is underactive, meaning it doesn’t produce enough hormones, the signs may not be obvious at first, but if left untreated can cause a number of other health problems, including infertility.
For reasons unknown, thyroid disease is five to eight times more prevalent in women than men. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, dry skin, and heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods. Since the thyroid gland is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA), which also controls some hormones related to fertility, any disruption in the system can impact ovulation and other aspects of menstruation. Thyroid dysfunction can interrupt ovulation, fertilization, and implantation which means not only could you have trouble getting pregnant, but you may also struggle to carry the fetus to term.
To understand how hypothyroidism affects fertility, it’s important to understand how it is regulated and what role these hormones play in your reproductive health.
Once the thyroid receives the message from the pituitary gland via thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), it signals the release of other thyroid hormones. This chain reaction is thanks to the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA), which is also responsible for certain key fertility hormones, namely follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Since the thyroid and the HPA are so closely related, any thyroid issue can impact the release of those fertility hormones. Even if just one of your fertility hormones is out of balance it can cause a host of disruptions to your period, ability to ovulate, and ability to get pregnant.
Healthy hormone levels are essential for ovulation and when these levels are out of whack the whole menstrual cycle may be disrupted. Hypothyroidism has been linked to menstrual cycle irregularities, which may be related to levels of the hormone prolactin.
Hypothyroidism can also have a direct effect on both FSH and LH, and a deficiency in thyroxine can lead to lower levels of both. FSH levels need to be within a certain range for someone to get pregnant and anything outside of that range may spell trouble. Likewise, luteinizing hormone controls ovulation and helps in the early stages of pregnancy, so when these levels are affected by hypothyroidism, you may experience fertility issues. Because LH is so closely linked with ovulation, it’s common for anyone planning a pregnancy to monitor their LH levels over time.
Getting pregnant can be trying enough, but when you have hypothyroidism you may also be at risk for certain outcomes. Not only is there an increased risk of miscarriage, but low levels may result in poor fetal development and an increased risk for premature birth. Left untreated, you are more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant with hypothyroidism, but once on medication, your chances should improve.
Thyroid hormones also support a developing baby, so once pregnant these increased demands could further impair thyroid function. Hormone levels should be monitored regularly during the pregnancy and checked after. A developing fetus creates increasing demands on your thyroid but can easily be corrected with medication.
With its nebulous list of symptoms, hypothyroidism can be tricky to detect but can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Apart from medication, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to balance your hormones naturally and help your thyroid function properly. Getting enough rest, managing your stress, minimizing bad habits, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can all help balance your hormones.
These lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on hormone levels, but nowhere is this more apparent than in your menstrual cycle. Since the menstrual cycle is a key driver of hormonal change, tracking your cycle and paying attention to how you feel at every phase is a great place to start.
There are a wide array of methods that can help you see your ovulation patterns, learn more about your cycle, and help you on your fertility journey including OPKs, temperature tracking, ultrasound, lab tests, and others. Each method comes with its own set of pros and cons, but with a fertility tracking device like Mira, you can see your numeric hormone concentration levels to help you reach your fertility goals.
If you are TTC, tracking these fertility-related hormones can help you:
- Better understand your individual cycle patterns
- Predict ovulation and your fertile window
- Plan sex with your partner at the most optimum time
- Confirm whether or not ovulation has occurred
With a fertility tracking device, you gain a detailed overview of your entire cycle and the information can also be shared with your healthcare provider. AI-powered readings and lab-quality, numeric hormone testing helps you gain clarity around your body and health (even with irregular cycles), to help you navigate any fertility journey. Mira is an at-home, non-invasive solution which helps you naturally track your ovulation to make informed decisions and take charge of your reproductive health.