If you have been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months, before you embark on invasive medical procedures and spend thousands of naira for assisted reproductive technology, ensure that your thyroid is functioning at its optimum.

Many women don’t realize that good thyroid function is necessary for fertility, the ability to conceive and to maintain a pregnancy.  A low or hyper functioning thyroid gland can prevent you from achieving that much desired pregnancy. While there are many and varied reasons for infertility, suboptimal thyroid function may be that “missing link” especially for those with no specific reproductive problems.

A full thyroid evaluation is essential, and should be done as soon as possible for any woman who wants to get pregnant, especially if she has any of the following:

Trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for more than 6 months

Two or more miscarriages

Irregular menstrual cycle

Period pain

Family history of thyroid problems.

Also in general for both male and female any of the following signs or symptoms may also suggest the need for thyroid evaluation

Low libido

Erectile dysfunction

Lethargy & fatigue

Susceptibility to the cold / cold hands & feet

Inability to lose weight or gain weight

Changes in texture of skin, nails, hair, hair loss

Recurrent infections

Constipation

What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?

The thyroid gland is located near the front of the throat, just below the voice box  and just above the collar bones. Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of the body’s metabolism, blood calcium levels, energy production, fat metabolism, oxygen utilization, balance of other hormones & weight maintenance. If the Pituitary gland is the Headmaster of all endocrine glands that produce all hormones, the thyroid gland is like the deputy headmaster.

Hormones involved with thyroid function include Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) released from the hypothalamus in the brain, which stimulates the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce Thyroxine (T4) & Triiodothyronine (T3).  Much of T4 is converted to T3 (the active form) in the liver.  Thyroid hormones are synthesized from iodine and the amino acid Tyrosine (from protein), and the conversion to the active form is reliant on the trace mineral Selenium.

Healthy Thyroid function can be affected by:

1. Exposure to environmental toxins – electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury, lead and fluoride.

2. Genetic susceptibility

3. High levels of stress

4. Nutrient deficiencies

5. Eating the wrong type of food

6. Autoimmune disorders

7. Infections

8. Other hormone imbalances such as estrogen dominance, high prolactin levels

How Does Hypothyroidism (Low) affect fertility?

Anovulatory cycles – In this case the person is having a menstrual cycle but not releasing an egg (ovulating).  This makes pregnancy impossible.Luteal Phase Problems – A person with a short second half of the menstrual cycle who gets a fertilized egg after intercourse will discover that such fertilized egg cannot implant securely and ends up leaving the body at the same time that menstruation would occur (very early miscarriage) and is often mistaken as a regular period.

High Prolactin Levels – due to elevated levels of Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) and low levels of Thyroxine (T4) resulting in irregular ovulation or no ovulation.

Other Hormonal Imbalances – reduced sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, all of which interfere with proper reproductive hormone balance.

A new study supports the notion that thyroid disorders can cause significant reproductive problems for women.

The report’s authors believe that testing for thyroid disease should be considered for women who have fertility problems and repeated early pregnancy loss.

The research, published Jan. 23 in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, found that 2.3 percent of women with fertility problems had an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), compared with 1.5 percent of those in the general population. The condition is also linked with menstrual irregularity, the researchers said.

“Abnormalities in thyroid function can have an adverse effect on reproductive health and result in reduced rates of conception, increased miscarriage risk and adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes,” said study co-author Amanda Jefferys in a journal news release. She is a researcher from the Bristol Center for Reproductive Medicine at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England.

We have noticed a strong link between hypo- and hyperthyroidism and infertility as well as adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes for over two decades.

Consequently, routine screening of the general population for thyroid dysfunction at the start of pregnancy and especially when seeking fertility treatment or struggling with miscarries, is highly recommended by experts.

The thyroid produces hormones that play key roles in growth and development. According to the British researchers, changes in thyroid function can have a major effect on reproductive function before, during and after conception.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) affects about 0.5 percent of women of reproductive age. In children and teens, the condition is associated with a delay in reaching sexual maturity, according to published reports.In adult women, hypothyroidism is linked with menstrual problems and a lack of ovulation in some cases.

The researchers also noted that thyroid disease is associated with an increased risk of problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, preeclampsia, poor fetal growth, premature birth and stillbirth.

The thyroid evaluation can be done in any good laboratory and then interpreted by a doctor or better still an endocrinologist. There are also new technique using bioenergetic testing to determine whether the thyroid gland is stressed or weak at the preclinical state before it becomes pathological.

Finally a good diet with iodide salt and good multivitamin supplement can provide a protection for the thyroid function.