How thyroid disorders affect fertility in men and women?

A simple blood test to measure TSH level can give an idea about any thyroid dysfunction.

Read on to know the various health problems associated with thyroid disorders, and understand the link between thyroid dysfunction and infertility.

Thyroid disorders are common in the Indian population. Both hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) can have a negative influence on reproductive function, fertility and pregnancy. January being “Thyroid Awareness Month”; it calls attention to the importance of the thyroid gland and to the various health problems associated with thyroid dysfunction.

To better understand the link between thyroid dysfunction and infertility, we connected with Dr. Sneha Sathe, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility Mumbai. The conversation follows:

First, help us understand the role of thyroid.

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, the same network that regulates reproductive function. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland which secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which then signals the thyroid to secrete thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These hormones are responsible for regulating body metabolism, energy levels, body weight, internal temperature, reproductive function, and the functioning of the lungs and heart and other vital organs.

What are the causes of thyroid disorders?

There are many different causes of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Autoimmune diseases called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease, infections, and iodine deficiency can all impact the thyroid.

Howthyroid disorders affect fertility in men and women?

Hypothyroidism is characterized by an underactive, sluggish thyroid. It has a prevalence of about 11 per cent and is found to affect women more commonly than men. In the early stages of hypothyroidism, there are often no noticeable symptoms. But if left untreated, it can lead to weight gain, cold intolerance, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, brittle nails, and hair loss. More than 50 per cent of hypothyroid women have abnormal menstrual cycles, including heavy and/or infrequent periods. Hypothyroidism is often associated with elevated prolactin, and this can affect fertility by inhibiting FSH and LH which are required for follicular maturation and ovulation.

Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid, causes symptoms such as rapid heart rate, weight loss, heat intolerance, tremors, nervousness, loose stools and insomnia. Women with hyperthyroidism often have scanty periods and shortened menstrual cycles. In men, hyperthyroidism can lead to reduction in semen volume, sperm count and motility.

Both hyper and hypothyroidism are associated with infertility and pregnancy loss. Impaired thyroid function around the time of conception and during early pregnancy can impact healthy brain development in the fetus. Hyperthyroidism can increase the risk of preterm delivery and fetal growth restriction.

When should one get tested for thyroid dysfunction?

Early diagnosis and treatment are key in managing thyroid health. A simple blood test to measure TSH level can give an idea about any thyroid dysfunction. Once a thyroid disorder is diagnosed, treatment can vary depending on severity of symptoms. Treatment may include dietary changes, nutritional supplements and medicines.

The thyroid is a tiny little gland but has a big role to play in fertility and pregnancy. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction and seek evaluation early. For couples struggling with infertility and/or pregnancy loss, it is necessary to evaluate even in the absence of symptoms.

What is that one message that you want to spread this Thyroid Awareness Month?

Please understand and remember that thyroid issues are manageable, and treatment is pretty straight forward. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, including infertility, are expected to resolve with proper treatment.

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

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