Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that’s located at the front of your neck. Despite being small, your thyroid has a large impact on many—if not all—of your body’s systems. That’s because your thyroid produces hormones that regulate your metabolism. It impacts things like your digestion, energy, internal temperature, your overall energy levels and your weight. But here’s the thing—your thyroid can also have an impact on your fertility, especially when it’s out of balance. And your thyroid can become out of balance by either producing not enough thyroid hormones (by far the most common), or by producing too much thyroid hormone.
Here are five ways that thyroid disorders can play a role in your fertility.
- Menstrual Regularity: Low levels of thyroid hormones, called hypothyroidism, can disrupt your menstrual cycle. It can produce a longer cycle than is normal for you, lighter or heavier bleeding, and longer or shorter periods. These changes can translate into making it harder for you to conceive.
- Ovulation: Having hypothyroidism can also interfere with ovulation. That’s because not only may your menstrual cycle be disrupted, but also because your thyroid regulates the reproductive hormones that control the metabolism of ovarian and uterine tissue, which impacts egg release and implantation.
- Pregnancy: Your thyroid also regulates the metabolism of placental tissue. Having low levels of thyroid hormones can increase your risk for early miscarriage or premature birth.
- Hyperthyroidism: While having low levels of thyroid hormones is more common, it’s also possible to have levels of thyroid hormones that are too high, a condition called hyperthyroidism. High levels can also disrupt your fertility in ways similar to having low thyroid hormones. High thyroid levels can disrupt your menstrual cycle, shorten the luteal phase of your cycle, and increase your risk for early-stage miscarriage or premature birth.
- Sperm Parameters: Men can also be affected by thyroid dysfunction. Thyroid disorders in men can have a negative impact on sperm quality and motility. This can make it harder for the sperm to get to or enter the egg for implantation.
If you’re experiencing fertility issues or suspect that your thyroid may be out of balance, your first step is to get your thyroid checked. It involves a simple blood test of something called thyroid-stimulating hormones, or TSH. Your primary health care provider can run this test or our naturopathic physician can perform this lab right from BodaHealth. For fertility, we want your thyroid hormones to function optimally, both your blood levels and your signs and symptoms are important to consider.
If you find that your thyroid hormones are out of balance, treatment can involve supplementing thyroid hormones if your levels are low, or taking medication to suppress high thyroid levels. At BodaHealth, we can also support any thyroid imbalances through acupuncture, herbal medicine, cold laser therapy, dietary interventions, and through the use of vitamin and mineral supplementation.
While the relationship between thyroid function and fertility is complicated, it will play a crucial role in your ability to conceive. Please give us a call for more information if you suspect that your thyroid is affecting your overall health or fertility.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.