By, Dr. Payal Chaudhary, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rosewalk Healthcare
Thyroid gland is a small organ in the front of your neck that produces hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism and affect vital functions. The relationship between your thyroid health and fertility is an important and sometimes complex part of conception. Thyroid disorders refer to a group of disorders that cause dysregulated functioning of the thyroid gland, resulting in the overproduction (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hypothyroidism) of thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4).
Thyroid disorders are known to affect a person’s body in a number of ways. A undiagnosed thyroid condition can sometimes hamper fertility of a man or woman. It can also cause problems during pregnancy. That is the reason that once a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormone and low TSH value) or hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones in the blood stream and high TSH value) is made, if a person is planning on pregnancy he or she should seek treatment for the same. Once the over- or underactive thyroid is under control, however, there is no reason why you should not have a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby. Sometimes, the thyroid hormone values may be in the normal range but body may form auto antibodies against thyroid gland and that can also impact fertility.
Hyperthyroidism is condition of excess thyroid hormone production and the most common cause of an overactive thyroid is Graves’ disease. If it is untreated you may irregularity in your periods and the flow may be reduced too. This may lead to difficulty in conception. This happens due to abnormal TSH values hampering ovulation and implantation of the baby to the mother’s uterus lining. After treatment, if you are planning to get pregnant then you should get your thyroid function test done prior to embarking on trial for pregnancy. Fertility can actually return rapidly once thyroid is under control.
If you are pregnant and have (or have had) Graves’ disease it is important to tell your obstetrician about your medical history. Even if your thyroid function has returned to normal and even if you are now taking medication for an underactive thyroid(which can appear after a phase of overactive thyroid), you may still have Graves’ antibodies in your blood and these could affect you and your baby during or after your pregnancy. You should also inform your treating doctor that you are pregnant as soon as possible. Thyroid hormone levels need monitoring throughout pregnancy especially if you are on medication.
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. If treatment is started in the form of thyroid medication, it becomes safe to plan a pregnancy.
Certain changes made in day to day life can help in thyroid gland regulation. Dietary changes include avoiding processed food and artificial additives to the diet. Regular exercise also helps. There are some studies recently in literature, which also highlight the role of Vitamin D supplement especially if you are deficient and also adding Selenium rich foods to diet which includes fruits and nuts.