The thyroid gland, or just thyroid for short, is a gland located at the front of the neck. The thyroid secretes thyroid hormones which regulate metabolic rate and protein synthesis. Thyroid hormones also help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working properly. Since we already know that hormones can play a huge part in fertility, it follows that the thyroid and any issues with your thyroid gland ( thyroid disorders ) could also have an effect on pregnancy and conception.
Thyroid disorders affect the thyroid gland in either function or structure. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus releases a thyrotropin releasing hormone which causes the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid to generate more T4 which is the primary hormone produced by the gland.
One specific type of thyroid disorder occurs when the body’s cells aren’t getting enough of the thyroid hormone, the body’s processes begin to slow down. When hypothyroidism starts to kick in, people tend to feel colder, more fatigued, more forgetful and depressed, and their skin can dry out. A lot of the symptoms are not quite so concrete and can overlap with other diseases and disorders, making it difficult to diagnose. The best way to test for hypothyroidism is to have a blood test or a thyroid-stimulating hormone test (TSH test) done.
Thyroid Disorders and Conception
During pregnancy, a woman’s immune system is suppressed throughout the duration of the pregnancy in order to protect the growing fetus. At the end of the pregnancy, because the immune system is still being suppressed, it’s possible for the mother to develop a thyroid disorder.
It is also possible for women with hypo- or hyperthyroidism to be unable to conceive. In men, low sperm counts in those with thyroid disease is common due to the low thyroid hormone levels. In addition to lowered fertility, people with thyroid disease tend to have a lower libido, potentially making it more difficult to conceive.
In a recent study published in the The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, research found that 2.3% of the women with fertility issues had an overactive thyroid compared with just 1.5% in the general population. “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,” stated co-author Amanda Jefferys.
While it’s certainly possible for people with thyroid disorders to conceive, there is also a chance that a thyroid disorder could prevent conception. Before attempting to conceive, it’s important to be tested by a professional if your family has a history of thyroid problems. To learn more about your conception options, make sure to sign up for our newsletter below.