Thyroid problems and fertility

Thyroid and fertility go hand in hand. A recent study has shown that diseases affecting the thyroid gland can have significant implications on fertility and therefore women who experience difficulty in having a child should have a function screening of this important gland.

Thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine and thyroxine) help control metabolism and play an important role in growth and development, especially brain development.

For this reason, changes in the levels of these hormones can cause problems before and after conception.

The most common diseases affecting the thyroid gland are overactivity of the gland (hyperthyroidism) or reduced activity of the same (hypothyroidism).

The study published on January 23, 2015 in  The Obstetrician & Gynecologist  highlighted the role of diseases affecting the thyroid gland on women’s reproductive capacity but also their effects on pregnancy.

It was seen that almost 2.3 percent of women suffering from fertility problems had a condition of hyperthyroidism (compared to an average of 1.5% of the general population).

During childhood and adolescence, hyperthyroidism is associated with delayed sexual maturity, while as adults it can lead to  menstrual problems and anovulatory cycles .

According to the authors, given that spontaneous abortions are quite frequent events (occurring about 1 time every 5 pregnancies) and multiple abortions (understood as 3 consecutive abortions) affects about 1% of couples, it would be advisable to check the thyroid problems of women who present not only fertility problems but also recurrent miscarriages, given that the hormones produced by the thyroid gland play an important role in embryonic development.

The authors also suggest that routine general screening of the entire female population before pregnancy to detect thyroid dysfunction could be useful.

Finally, those with thyroid disease should be monitored constantly during pregnancy

For example, complications caused by unmonitored and untreated hypothyroidism in pregnancy include: preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, failure to thrive, heart failure, and MEF.

How to understand if the thyroid is working well?

Through a blood sample that evaluates the hormonal values ​​(TSH, FT4, FT3) and an ultrasound. Women are more likely to develop thyroid-related disease than men, and it’s important to watch out for some symptoms that are often mistaken for other common ailments.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:

  • Feeling cold even though it is not
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling very tired
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Dry and thinning hair
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Less sweating than usual
  • Swollen face
  • A hoarse voice
  • Menstrual bleeding heavier than usual

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Weight loss without dieting
  • More appetite than usual
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disorders
  • Trembling of hands and fingers
  • Increased sweating
  • Feeling hot when it’s not hot
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements
  • Less heavy menstrual cycles
  • Eye problems: swelling, redness or irritation

Cholesterol levels may also be affected and thus may increase the risk of heart disease

If you notice particular symptoms or have difficulty getting pregnant, ask your doctor to have your thyroid function evaluated.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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