This article discusses how hypothyroidism and fertility are related and some strategies for addressing it naturally.
The thyroid gland is one of the seven endocrine glands, and it’s located at the base of your throat (behind Adam’s apple). Your thyroid gland is in charge of metabolism and energy production in the body. A bit like an electricity generator. In your early life and in utero it was involved in your brain development and organ differentiation. Later in your life it took control of your metabolism.
– Heart beat
– Blood flow to the hands and feet
– Glucose production
– Production of cholesterol
– Fat burning
– Production of heat
– Activation and secretion of steroid hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to name a few)
– Rate at which you use oxygen
– Cell proliferation
– Intestinal integrity
– Kidney function
– And many more
It either gives your cellular energy generators – aka – mitochondria a nudge to make more energy or instructs brown fatty tissue to release heat or it increases the activity of enzymes in charge of energy production.
Your thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones T3 and T4. T4 is a precursor to T3 and is 20 fold more abundant than the more potent T3. To convert T3 into T4 your body needs one very important mineral – iodine.
About 25% of female infertility cases and 15% of menstrual cycle disorder cases result from thyroid dysfunction. Especially subclinical hypothyroidism has a high prevalence in the population. Therefore thyroid function and the risk of hypothyroidism must be examined in all women with infertility and / or menstrual disturbances and irregularities.
Apart from being endocrine glands, these two are known as sister organs! Immunologically they are like two sisters. Therefore abnormal autoimmune function of the ovary is closely related to the autoimmune function of the thyroid.
Thyroid hormones impact the action and secretion of steroid hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone). Ovaries have thyroid hormone receptors, where thyroid hormones interact with and have a direct effect on ovarian hormone production.
In the case of thyroid hormone deficiency your ovary will not be able to produce sufficient amounts of hormones required for optimal fertility and a healthy pregnancy, leading to an ovulation, predisposition to PCOS, endometriosis and miscarriages.
Studies have found that infertile women have a significantly higher prevalence of autoimmune thyroid disease when compared to fertile women. This is especially the case in women with endometriosis and PCOS.
Another study found that 44% of infertile women with autoimmune thyroid disease had endometriosis, compared with only 9% of infertile women without autoimmune thyroid disease.
Women with autoimmune thyroid disease have an increased risk of miscarriage. Which is why this is one of the tests that should be preformed as early as possible.
– Abnormal neuronal and placental development resulting in malformations and miscarriage.
– Deficiency of thyroid hormones during brain development in utero and early post partum period can result in brain damage leading to mental retardation, decreased intellectual capacity, psychomotor delay and deafness.
Take a look at the following 22 symptoms of hypothyroidism
– Weight gain
– Intolerance to cold
– Hair loss
– Dry skin
– Menstrual abnormalities
– Recurrent miscarriages
– Fibrocystic breasts
– Poor concentration
– Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
– Sleep apnea
– Dysmenorrhea – painful periods
– Menorrhagia – heavy periods
– Facial puffiness
– Loss of libido
Already from the fifth week of pregnancy there is an increased demand for thyroid hormone. But the problem and the catch 22 is that during pregnancy there is also an increased blood flow through the kidneys where iodine is filtered out of the blood and lost in the urine.
Studies have shown that even a very short 3 day deficiency of thyroid hormone during pregnancy can result in brain alterations in the baby similar to those in autism. One in 20 newborns has potential brain alterations as a result of insufficient thyroid hormone during pregnancy.
Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation is used to harvest the eggs for IVF or some other form of ART (assisted reproductive technology). This places an enormous strain on the thyroid gland to produce huge amounts of thyroid hormones. If adequate nutrients for optimal thyroid function are not present during and after IVF, the risk of miscarriages and malformations increases.
Postpartum (after birth) thyroiditis is one of the most common endocrinological disorders affecting millions of women world-wide. And it seems to affect women in the first year after delivery. Hypothyroidism is also associated with post partum depression or maternity blues. This doesn’t come as a surprise given how taxing pregnancy is on thyroid hormones.
I hope this has given you some insight into the connection between hypothyroidism and fertility. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Iva Keene is co-founder and director of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com. She has been a qualified, accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 13 years, holds a Bachelor's degree in Health Science and a Masters degree in Reproductive Medicine. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva's articles, videos, guides and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments and integrative reproductive health.