Your infertility may be due to abnormal thyroid function by Prof. Oladapo Ashiru
If you have been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for more than six 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 realise that proper 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 various reasons for infertility, suboptimal thyroid function may be the “missing link”, especially for those with no specific reproductive problems.
A full thyroid evaluation is essential and it should be done as soon as possible for any woman, who wants to get pregnant, especially if she has any of the following symptoms:
Unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant for more than six months, two or more miscarriages, irregular menstrual cycle, painful menstrual periods and a 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:
Lethargy and fatigue
Susceptibility to the cold/cold hands & feet
Inability to lose weight or gain weight
Changes in texture of skin, nails, hair and hair loss
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 the regulation of the body’s metabolism, blood calcium levels, energy production, fat metabolism, oxygen utilisation, the 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 the Thyroid Releasing Hormone released from the hypothalamus in the brain, which stimulates the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine.
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:
Exposure to environmental toxins — electromagnetic radiation, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury, lead, and fluoride. Environmental toxins cause several endocrine disruptions and have become an obvious danger to fertility.
High levels of stress
Eating the wrong type of food
Other hormone imbalances, such as estrogen dominance and high prolactin levels.
How does hypothyroidism (low) affect fertility?
Anovulatory cycles – In this case, the person is having a menstrual period but not releasing an egg (ovulating). It makes pregnancy impossible.
Luteal Phase Problems – A person with the 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 mistaken as a regular period.
High Prolactin Levels – due to elevated levels of Thyroid Releasing Hormone and low levels of Thyroxine 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.
In the report, 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. It is linked with menstrual irregularity, the researchers said.
“Abnormalities in thyroid function can hurt 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 recommended by experts.
The thyroid produces hormones that play crucial roles in growth and development. According to British researchers, changes in thyroid function can have a significant 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, and is associated with a delay in reaching sexual maturity, according to published reports.
In adult women, hypothyroidism causes menstrual problems and a lack of ovulation in some cases.
The researchers also noted that thyroid disease 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 is also a 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 protect the thyroid function.