Pregnancy

Thyroid and fertility: What’s the connection?

Individual in Doctor's office having a thyroid examination

After a year of trying to get pregnant and not using birth control, my friend started to become a little concerned when she was not conceiving. After all, shouldn’t she have been pregnant already? When she went to see the doctor for a check-up, she was informed that she had a low thyroid level.

1 in 10 Canadians have a problem with their thyroid and about 50% of them are undiagnosed.

What is the thyroid gland?

  • The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland found at the base of your neck.
  • It’s responsible for releasing a variety of hormones that help with different vital functions in the body such as conception.

Why is the thyroid important?

  • It works together with the pituitary gland to send out hormones to release an egg for ovulation.
  • An abnormal thyroid hormone level can cause no eggs to be released making it difficult to get pregnant. This can also make it difficult to maintain a pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

Changes with thyroid levels often have symptoms that can vary from person to person and can be very subtle.

Some symptoms of low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) include:

  • fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • difficulty concentrating
  • weight gain
  • cold intolerance
  • hair loss

Some symptoms of having high thyroid hormone levels (hyperthyroidism) are:

  • hand tremors
  • hair loss
  • missed or light menstrual periods
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dry skin

Untreated thyroid symptoms may lead to risks of infertility, miscarriage, preterm birth, fetal developmental delays and may affect milk supply if planning to breastfeed.

Tips when planning a pregnancy:

  1. Think about when you want to be pregnant.
    Making a Reproductive Life Plan allows you to set, plan and achieve personal goals whether you want to have a child or not. This helps you prepare to be as healthy as possible to increase your chances of having a healthy baby and pregnancy when the time is right for you.
  1. Be aware of changes in your body
    Take note when you notice something that is out of the ordinary.  Multiple symptoms or unexplained symptoms are reasons to be assessed by your health care practitioner.
  1. See your health care provider
    If you have a family history of thyroid problems, previous miscarriages, an irregular menstrual cycle or have had thyroid problems in the past, see your health care provider before you get pregnant to have your thyroid hormone levels checked and managed as needed.

It is important to monitor your health and see your doctor to address any problems if and when you are planning a pregnancy.

For more information:

 

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