Your Thyroid and Your Fertility

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, and women are 5-8 times more likely than men to be affected.  In fact, it is estimated that one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder at some point in their lives.

Your thyroid is a small gland in your body which manufactures thyroid hormones.  When you have a thyroid disorder, your thyroid gland is either producing too much (overactive or hyperthyroid) or too little (underactive of hypothyroid) of these hormones, causing a change in your body’s metabolic processes.  Symptoms of a thyroid disorder include weight loss or gain, memory impairment, fatigue, mood changes, and irregular menstrual flow.

A study published in British journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in early 2015 further validates what has long been suspected in the medical community, which is that abnormalities in thyroid function can lead to reduced conception rates, increased risk of miscarriage, and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preeclampsia, poor fetal growth, premature birth, and stillbirth.  The study found that 2.3 percent of women with fertility issues have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, compared to 1.5 percent of women in the general population.  Furthermore, while only about 0.5 percent of women of reproductive age are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, those women are likely to experience delayed sexual maturity and lack of ovulation.

It is recommended that any woman who is trying to become pregnant be screened regularly for thyroid dysfunction.  Additionally, since pregnancy itself can bring on thyroid issues, screening should continue throughout pregnancy and for some time after the baby is born.  Medical professionals state that treatments for thyroid disorders are safe to use when pregnant, and may decrease the risk of miscarriage and improve the overall health of the baby in utero.