Are you planning for pregnancy, but in vain? Are your thyroid levels intact? If your answer for the first question is “yes” and “no” for the second, you should care for this small gland named “thyroid” that’s located right in your neck! Is your thyroid gland affecting ovulation?
Do not underestimate what this tiny butterfly-shaped gland, which measures just 4 cm in length and weighs 25 g on average, could do to you. Hypothyroidism could be the main reason for your infertility.
If you are someone who is battling this condition and has a lot of questions running at the back of your mind, then this blog post is for you!
We help you understand the connection between Hypothyroidism and Ovulation and its negative impact while trying to conceive. Read till the end and post your valuable comments below.
What is hypothyroidism?
The term hypothyroidism in simple terms is when your thyroid glands which are supposed to produce the right amount of triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) become underactive, and they don’t create and release adequate thyroid hormones into your bloodstream—a condition that causes infertility in most women.
An important role is played by the hypothalamus-pituitary axis (HPA), which is the combination of the hypothalamus (a brain’s section that produces hormones) and the pituitary gland (a section that waits for its cue from the hypothalamus).
The two work with each other and one of these sends signals for the other organ to react as a chain.
The HPA controls the generation of fertility hormones, which could impact the thyroid function on how much of these hormones are released.
When there is any deviation from the normal, it can disrupt the normal functioning of the menstrual cycle. Now without the normal complete cycle of ovulation, fertilization, and implantation, it is difficult to get pregnant naturally.
Hence any sort of hormonal changes can be linked to abnormal menstrual cycles, affecting ovulation.
How does the thyroid gland affecting ovulation?
According to a trusted source, hypothyroidism is prevalent roughly in around 2-4% of women folks.
Consequence 1: Thyroid hormone is crucial for all stages of egg growth, sperm maturation, and survival of a fertilized egg. It majorly affects the sex hormones by interrupting the normal functioning of the hypothalamo-pituitary-ovarian axis.
Consequence 2: The basic prerequisite for the implantation of a fertilized egg is the uterine lining (endometrium).
It is the T3 hormone that helps thicken the uterine lining and helps the fertilized egg move down the fallopian tubes towards the uterus, where it will be implanted.
Now imagine the consequences with insufficient levels of T3 yourself.
Consequence 3: An underactive thyroid level completely disrupts the metabolism of the hormone estrogen, leading to an increase in the follicle-stimulating hormone, testosterone, and luteinizing hormone levels.
This changes the entire ovulation patterns in women, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles.
This directly prevents ovulation in pre-pregnancy and often may lead to complications including menstrual irregularity, infertility, miscarriage, and other complications of unwanted pregnancy.
Ideally what happens during a normal menstrual cycle is that the egg is released for fertilization.
But with women who have hypothyroidism, there is no release or irregular release of the egg(s) during ovulation, which causes difficulty in conceiving.
The thyroid levels are critical for pregnancy— an under or overactive thyroid affects ovulation regulation and reduces fertility.
This is much more common in women than men. Roughly around 25% of women have thyroid dysfunction, which is 4x greater than in men.
What are the chances of getting pregnant with hypothyroidism?
Let’s pull out some research to substantiate this.
According to research submitted by Zhang C, et al, a total of 7 in 10 people with undiagnosed hypothyroid have irregular menstrual cycles. About 4 in 10 women who were fighting to get pregnant had subclinical hypothyroidism.
However, 5 in 10 women who were on levothyroxine therapy after hypothyroidism diagnosis had their menstrual normalized.
In another study, it is proven that from a total of 400 women suffering from infertility, 24% of them were diagnosed with hypothyroidism; but within a year’s treatment, 76% of them were able to conceive. Well, that’s the power of proper diagnosis, followed by treatment.
It is clear from the above studies that opting for hypothyroid treatment is important to reduce infertility, at a later time.
On the other hand, if you are considering pregnancy with hypothyroidism, do remember that miscarriage is a risk.
Even if you get pregnant, thyroid dysfunction can shorten the second half of the menstrual cycle, without giving time for the fertilized egg enough time to cling to the womb.
You could either encounter ovarian cysts, low basal body temperature, extreme levels of TPO (Thyroid Peroxidase) antibodies, which could lead to pregnancy loss.
The case is even more severe with the baby having to undergo congenital disabilities. While this may sound scary, proper treatment supported by hope, confidence and patience can vastly improve the prognosis.
How to prepare for pregnancy with impaired thyroid?
The only way to prep up for pregnancy with hypothyroidism is to get proper treatment. Here are some pro tips below for you to tackle those blues;
Let your doctor know:
Remember, you could either have longer or heavier periods, suffer from anemia, preeclampsia. Things are just going to be normal with the necessary treatment and follow-ups.
So, let your doctor know the situation and have a blood test done before you try to conceive. Your doctor could put you on levothyroxine to keep your TSH level (below 2.5mIU/L) on the lower side in order to prevent the risk of miscarriage.
She would also try to keep your Vitamin D levels in a good zone with approx. 37.5–50.0 μg (1500–2000 iu)
Frequent thyroid checkups:
Make it every six to eight weeks, at least that’s what your doctor could suggest.
However, rely on your doctor for a personalized suggestion about the frequency of the checkups and tests to monitor the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level.
The best idea would be to go for a Follicular Study or a series of vaginal scans performed during the menstrual cycle to determine your time of ovulation, size of the follicles, the number of eggs that are released through the fallopian tube, and their scope for fertilization.
Based on the observation and diagnosis, she would suggest the dosage until your thyroid function is back to a level.
Focus on Diet:
Get proper diet support from your doctor. Initially, it’s going to be challenging, but trust us, it’s all for the days ahead!
Avoid soy products as they may contain phytoestrogens that will boost the risk of subclinical hypothyroidism. Completely giving up on Gluten can help your thyroid’s autoimmune response.
Keep sugar and carb out of your reach as they both release insulin than recommended, which could release in more testosterone.
Do not self-medicate:
Every woman is different and so is her clinical history; so do not be carried away by what others suggest when it comes to medication or switching between medicines.
This could result in something disastrous! The bottom line is, to stick to what your doctor suggests to you. Nevermore, not less.
Handle the situation well:
Don’t be alarmed at the care you get from your doctor, that’s even when the dosage levels are increased. To give stability to you, your baby, and to stimulate ovulation, your body needs sufficient amount of thyroid hormone.
Lastly do not get anxious! Your journey to conceiving your little one is going to be far more enjoyable!
Even those whose levels of TSH are normal can experience difficulty in conceiving. So it is better to have timele baseline check-ups done on your thyroid levels to detect any issues. Once you follow these above tips, then your thyroid hormone levels would be back to normal, thus increasing your chances of becoming pregnant.
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