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CONDITIONS

Hypothyroidism and Fertility*

Can You Get Pregnant with Hypothyroidism?

Introduction

Hypothyroidism, otherwise known as an underactive thyroid gland, affects approximately 4.6 percent of the U.S. population.1 While this disease impacts both genders, it is more common in females, which can lead to fertility and menstrual cycle issues.

In this case, your thyroid would not make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s needs, often resulting in abnormal or irregular periods, which can then affect ovulation, reducing your odds of becoming pregnant. If you are concerned that you may have hypothyroidism or have been recently diagnosed, and you are trying to conceive, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Hypothyroidism — Causes and Symptoms

Your thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4/thyroxine) help your body regulate metabolism.2 This impacts how your body uses energy, and when levels are low, many of your body functions slow down. Hypothyroidism occurs when your body does not produce enough thyroid hormones, and if left untreated, a multitude of complications can arise, ranging from infertility to heart problems, mental health issues to birth defects.

That is why you need to remain aware of the potential warning signs, as well as key risk factors.

Common causes include, but are not limited to:

  • An autoimmune disease — Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that damages the thyroid, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.3 Scientists believe this disorder is triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental variables. Women are more likely to develop this disease than men, causing complications when trying to get pregnant.
  • Hyperthyroidism treatment — Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism, resulting in an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Although treatment is often successful, in some cases, it can cause thyroid hormone levels to remain low permanently.
  • Radiation therapy and medications — Radiation therapy, as well as numerous medications, can slow down or even halt the production of thyroid hormones. This is something that you should speak to your doctor about if you’re concerned that your current treatment plan has affected your thyroid.

Although the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from one person to the next, as well as the severity of one’s condition, some of the most common warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and weight gain are two of the most common early warning signs
  • Depression
  • Feeling cold
  • Heavier than normal periods, which are often irregular
  • Muscle stiffness and aches, as well as painful joints
  • Menstrual changes and issues with fertility
  • Dry skin
  • Elevated blood cholesterol and slow heart rate
  • Thinning hair
  • Puffy face4

Hypothyroidism and Fertility

Hypothyroidism can impact nearly every organ in your body, including your reproductive system. Sadly, this means that women who have hypothyroidism are less likely to become pregnant than women without this condition. Hypothyroidism can impact fertility due to anovulatory cycles (which means you skip ovulation), luteal phase defects (which is when your ovaries release an egg), and sex hormone imbalance.

It’s important to note that hypothyroidism can also affect men in terms of fertility, often resulting in low libido and low sperm count.5 For both men and women, increased fatigue due to hypothyroidism often means that couples are having less sex — and when combined with poor ovulation, the chances of becoming pregnant are significantly lower.

Can You Get Pregnant with Hypothyroidism?

The prevalence of hypothyroidism is between 2 and 4 percent among women in the reproductive age group.

As reported in one key study, researchers found that of the 394 women who were infertile, 23.9 percent had hypothyroidism.6 However, following treatment for hypothyroidism, 76.6 percent of these women were able to conceive within 6 weeks to a year.

Once again, this is why it’s important to spot symptoms as soon as possible. When hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed, conceiving can remain rather difficult, and if you do conceive, this condition can also cause problems during pregnancy, including an increased risk of miscarriage.7

You can speak to your doctor about your options, as there are medications available that will help you achieve more optimal thyroid hormone levels, dramatically improving your chances of becoming pregnant.8

It is also important that you consider a preconception health plan to get ready for pregnancy. This can help you increase your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby. Your plan should address any medical issues, including hypothyroidism, as well as key lifestyle variables, including stress, smoking, and the importance of micronutrients.

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