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How Thyroid Affects Pregnancy and Fertility

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Your thyroid, a small gland at the base of your neck that produces metabolic hormones, may be the last thing you would suspect when you are experiencing infertility issues. Dysfunction of the thyroid can affect ovulation and make it difficult for women to conceive.

A blood test that measures thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is the first step in diagnosing thyroid disorders. If your TSH level is too high, it may indicate that you have an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. If it is too low, it may mean that you have hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. Typically, the normal range for TSH is 0.5 to 5.5, but this range may be too wide for those trying to conceive. Although we don't have the ideal TSH range for infertile women attempting to get pregnant, the current recommendations is to get your TSH value to ≤2.5 mIU/L, which is the established goal for pregnant women.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland in which it produces too little thyroid hormone than it should.

If you have untreated Hypothyroidism, you may be less likely to conceive. Women may have longer or heavier periods, which can cause anemia, or no periods at all. Men may also experience infertility if their thyroid hormone levels are low.

Women who have raised anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies, indicative of a degree of thyroid autoimmunity, are at increased risk for miscarriage.

While some women may not initially experience any symptoms, as the condition progresses, hypothyroidism effects are:

  • Lack of energy and fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Constipation

  • Dry and/or itchy skin

  • Sensitivity to cold

  • Depression

  • Hoarse voice

  • Less interest in sex

  • Irregular periods

  • Infertility problems

  • Recurrent miscarriages

What is Hyperthyroidism?

When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, that condition is known as hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. Graves’ disease is a disorder that can cause an overactive thyroid. If it is not treated, you may have irregular periods and find it difficult to conceive. In men, hyperthyroidism can cause a marked reduction in sperm count, resulting in reduced fertility. The sperm count usually returns to normal once the thyroid condition has been treated. A woman with untreated hyperthyroidism is at a higher risk of miscarriage during early pregnancy, as well as complications of high blood pressure in pregnancy, poor growth of the baby, and premature delivery.

Hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Excessive sweating

  • Weight loss

  • Insomnia

  • Shaking or tremors

  • Fast heart rate or palpitations

  • Sensitivity to heat

  • Nervousness and anxiety

  • Neck tenderness

What is Hashimoto's?

Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland, which could lead to an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism. Autoimmune conditions develop when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your own tissues. Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that means white blood cells have attacked the thyroid enough to slow it down and lead to infertility or complications during pregnancy if left untreated. Even with normal level of thyroid hormones, many people still suffer from various clinical symptoms, which effects their fertility and quality of life.

Women are eight times more likely than men to develop Hashimoto's.

Pregnancy can be difficult when a woman has Hashimoto's disease because the low levels of thyroid hormone interfere with ovulation. The decreased levels of thyroid hormone in women with this condition interfere with ovulation, making it difficult for a woman to release an egg for fertilization. Without fertilization, pregnancy cannot occur.

The thyroid is a gland that affects multiple body systems. When the thyroid produces too little hormone, it can impact other functions of the body, including pregnancy. Both subclinical hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity are more common between weeks 4 and 8 of pregnancy, when there is a greater risk of miscarriage. Left untreated, thyroid deficiency can significantly increase the risk of second-trimester miscarriage or stillbirth.

Hashimoto's disease should be addressed and treated as soon as possible to reduce the risk of miscarriage.

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis symptoms may resemble both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism:

  • Sensitivity to temperature

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Anxiety

  • Excessive sweating

  • Excessive hunger

  • Insomnia

  • fatigue

  • low sex drive

  • neck stiffness/pain

  • mood swings

Acupuncture Treatment for Thyroid Problems

Acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the body to produce immune responses that can regulate hormonal balance, restore energy levels, and help manage sleep and emotions. There are several powerful points in the ear and body that can be used to regulate the production of thyroid hormones.

Acupuncture can treat thyroid disease through:

  • Lowering thyroid hormone levels in people with hyperthyroidism

  • Increasing thyroid hormone levels in patients with hypothyroidism

  • Reducing stress and pain, and promoting relaxation

  • Increasing blood circulation in small blood vessels improves joint mobility and muscle stiffness

  • Enhancing the release of adenosine, which reduces sensitivity to pain

  • Helping release vascular and immunomodulatory factors to reduce inflammation

Treatments take all of your symptoms into account and aim to maximize your health by adjusting energy within the body.

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