An Overview of Infertility & Thyroid Health
It’s currently estimated that 12.1% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 15 and 44 have trouble conceiving and becoming pregnant.1 A diagnosis of infertility can be made after one year of unprotected intercourse in women under 35, and after six months in women over 35. Although there are several female and male factors that can contribute to infertility, I want to focus on one factor in particular that is often not considered – thyroid health. Thyroid hypofunctioning is not uncommon in women. Some women have diagnoses of hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism), and take replacement thyroid hormone. Through routine lab testing, I’ve seen many women with suboptimal thyroid gland functioning as evidenced by slightly elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and slightly low T4 (one type of thyroid hormone); however, the thyroid hormone levels technically aren’t out of the ‘normal’ range (we call this subclinical hypothyroidism).2 In these cases, even though their hormone levels wouldn’t constitute a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, the suboptimal functioning can still strongly impact ovulation and pregnancy outcomes.3 Subclinical hypothyroidism is actually more prevalent than thyroid autoimmunity in women with infertility.4 The marked changes in thyroid hormones are intimately related to changes in sex hormones, which directly impact menstruation, ovulation, and fertility.5
How Do I Know if My Thyroid is Healthy?
The most common menstrual irregularity seen in hypothyroidism is heavy bleeding (menorrhagia).6 Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism include low energy, constipation, inability to lose weight, weight gain, dry skin and hair, low libido, and paleness. Since each woman can have different symptoms, the best way to check your thyroid gland functioning is to have a thyroid panel done via a blood test. It is recommended that women looking to become pregnant get at least their TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level tested.7 Another way you can get a sense of your reproductive healthy, fertility, and thyroid functioning is to measure your basal body temperature (BBT) each morning before you get up from bed, and record it. Your BBT should increase the day after you ovulate (which is approximately midway through your menstrual cycle), and remain elevated until the day menses begins, where it will drop back to baseline. This can help you see if you are ovulating each month, which is in part a reflection of your thyroid health (if you are premenopausal).
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to improve thyroid health and fertility naturally. If you have had trouble becoming pregnant, have signs of hypothyroidism, or have had a thyroid panel showing abnormal results, I highly recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor. With dietary modifications, nutritional supplements, herbs, homeopathy, and lifestyle modifications, naturopathic doctors are trained to help your thyroid produce healthy levels of hormones and restore fertility.
Take your first step to improving your fertility and thyroid health naturally by booking your free phone consultation with me!
- (2016). Infertility. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed 9 December 2018. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm.
- Stone, M.B., and Wallace R.B. Medicare Coverage of Routine Screening for Thyroid Dysfunction. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Medicare Coverage of Routine Thyroid Screening. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2003.
- Trokoudes, K.M., Skordis, N., and Picolos M.K. Infertility and thyroid disorders. Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology. (2006);18(4):446-451.
- Abalovich, M.L., Mitelberg, L., Allami, C., et. al. Subclinical hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity in women with infertility. Gynecological Endocrinology. (2007);23(5):279-283.
- Krassas, G.E., Poppe, K., and Glinoer, D. Thyroid function and human reproductive health. Endocrine Reviews. (2010);(31)5:702-755.
- Ramya, M.R., Parvathavarthini, D.S., and Sankareswari, R. Menstrual disorders associated with thyroid dysfunction. International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology. (2017);6(11).
- Redmond, G.P. Thyroid dysfunction and women’s reproductive health. Thyroid. (2004);14(1).