Infertility has many causes, such as hormone imbalances, eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, excess weight, stress, intense exercise, and tumors and cysts that grow inside the reproductive tract. There are also some less common causes of infertility, such as thyroid gland problems. In a small number of women, hypothyroidism has been linked to infertility problems.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a common condition in which the thyroid does not create enough thyroid hormone. Also referred to as an underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism causes your metabolism to slow down and can lead to chronic fatigue, weight gain, and an inability to tolerate cold temperatures.
Hypothyroidism is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, which is when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism and have a direct impact on many of the body’s functions. The thyroid gland can be found below the larynx in the front of the neck. It contains two lobes located on each side of the windpipe.
This condition affects both men and women of all ethnicities. Although it can impact people of all ages, it is most common in women over age 60. Hypothyroidism can have a number of causes, such as thyroiditis, iodine deficiency, treatment of hyperthyroidism, and certain heredity conditions.
The Fertility Connection
Thyroid function is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA) which is made up of the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. As the HPA has some control over hormones that impact fertility, thyroid dysfunction can affect how much of these hormones are released into the bloodstream. When there are problems with the release of hormones, it can disrupt menstrual cycles and make it difficult to become pregnant.
The thyroid impacts many different reproductive hormones in females. A thyroid hormone imbalance can lead to too little or too much of the following key hormones which can impact fertility:
- Estrogen – Estrogen is a type of sex hormone that helps develop and maintain the reproductive system and certain female characteristics. Healthy estrogen levels are needed to help regulate ovulation, menstruation, and fertilization.
- Progesterone – Progesterone works in combination with estrogen to prepare the uterine lining to accept a fertilized egg. With healthy levels of progesterone, a fertilized egg is more likely to implant successfully.
- Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone – This hormone signals for the pituitary gland to create follicle-stimulating hormone which forces the follicle to burst and release an egg. The egg is then transported from an ovary and into a fallopian tube where it awaits fertilization.
- Luteinizing Hormone – This hormone is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland and plays a key role in ovulation. It is used to signal the ovaries to release a mature egg.
Hypothyroidism doesn’t just affect a woman’s ability to conceive, it can also impact male fertility. The thyroid receives messages directly from the pituitary gland through the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which then releases calcitonin, triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4). Both T3 and T4 play a crucial role in the function and development of the testes. When men have hypothyroidism, it can lead to a reduction in sperm morphology.
When to Seek Help
Although it is possible to get pregnant with hypothyroidism naturally, having this condition can lower your chances of a successful conception. Couples are advised to seek a thyroid evaluation if they are unable to conceive after six months of trying, if they experience irregular menstrual cycles, have had two or more miscarriages, or if they have a family history of thyroid disorders.
Hypothyroidism can often be treated with a prescription from a physician for the missing hormone. Couples trying to get pregnant should also consult with a Melbourne fertility clinic. A personalized treatment plan can be developed based on specific health conditions and infertility problems. At Viera Fertility, we offer a variety of fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination, fertility drug therapy, and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Contact Viera Fertility
Don’t let a diagnosis of hypothyroidism stop you from having the family you’ve always wanted. Reach out to Viera Fertility today to learn more about our fertility treatments. We are looking forward to helping you achieve your dream of having children.