If you are trying to conceive, did you know that the tiny butterfly-shaped gland in your body (your thyroid), is located at the base of your neck right below your larynx (or voice box) and is closely connected to your fertility? In fact, this vital gland, coupled with your reproductive organs (both the ovaries or testes) works together to make conception a reality! If this is the case for you, you are not alone! Around 20 million people in our country are affected by thyroid disease and many of them are women.
The Importance of Your Thyroid
Your thyroid is a vital component of your endocrine system. It produces, stores and releases hormones into your bloodstream so they can reach the cells in your body. This secretion leads to the regulation of your metabolism as well as your growth and development.
When it comes to fertility, you might have your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) checked when evaluating your fertility with bloodwork. If you are a woman, your malfunctioning TSH level may leave you experiencing irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation while men may end up with poor sperm health.
The thyroid gland releases two vital hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) which regulate your metabolism — how you use energy affecting your breathing, heart rate and body temperature. Overproduction of these hormones can leave you with the following:
- Brittle hair
- Hand trembling
- Increased appetite
- Missed or lighter menstrual periods
- Rapid heart rate
- Sensitivity to high temperatures
- Weight loss
Your thyroid can be overactive or underactive, and neither is healthy. If it is overactive, hyperthyroidism can lead to diminished menstrual cycles, and in men, having decreased semen volume, sperm movement and sperm shape. Conversely, an underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism, can leave you experiencing heavy periods if you are a woman or interfere with sperm shape if you are a man. Along with fertility issues, thyroid issues can cause weight problems, hair loss, fatigue, depression and insomnia. In some cases, thyroid tissue can grow too much, and you could find a “nodule” or small lump in part of the thyroid gland which can make it hard to swallow.
To determine if a thyroid issue is causing your inability to conceive, our fertility team can help. Our board-certified endocrinologists can assess the state of your thyroid as well as your infertility concerns. In some cases, fertility medication can solve your issue but if not, we can also prescribe intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) or preimplantation genetic testing (PGT).
The good news is, most women who have hyperthyroidism can conceive but it should be managed and observed to make sure you and your baby are safe. Too little T3 and T4 in your body can cause:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Trouble sleeping
- Frequent, heavy periods
What about male infertility and thyroid issues? Around a third of hypothyroidism cases involve men, and unless managed, it can cause infertility resulting in the following:
- Diminished semen quality
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low testicular function
- Poor sperm count
- Reduce libido
Restoring proper thyroid hormone levels can result in erectile function once more and boost sperm quantity and quality.
Reach Out for Help
There are medications to boost thyroid function for men and women that can improve your odds of conception, lower your miscarriage risk, and improve your baby’s health. If you have been unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse or you are over the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for six months, it might be time to seek the help of our fertility experts. Our Utah Fertility Center team has various locations around the state to assist you. Please call 801-785-5100 to find a location nearest you. For more information, check out this factsheet.