Life can become miserable for couples who are trying to conceive but are not able to do so. It happens because it is not just the stress that plagues them, but also the nagging fear that they might never be able to bear their offspring. When results seem to be elusive after nearly 6 months of attempting to conceive, it is advisable to see a fertility specialist for help. The first step for infertility treatment is to focus on pinpointing the exact cause of infertility, and the possibilities are varied, with thyroid dysfunction being one of them.
The specialist has to look for all kinds of probabilities, which can include some major complications such as structural abnormalities, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, PCOD, endometriosis and so on. At the same time, something as simple as a thyroid dysfunction may be responsible too. It is hard to believe that improper function of a gland located near the throat can actually stop a woman from getting pregnant, but this does happen!
Thyroid Gland- Knowing it Better
Located at the front of the throat, the thyroid gland secretes hormones vital for regulation of various functions in the body. The hormones produced by the gland are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), the former being synthesized in small amounts (T4 gets converted to T3) yet being the more active one.
Other key hormones which are to be studied for evaluating the thyroid function are TRH (Thyroid Releasing Hormone) and TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). TRH is released from hypothalamus (in the brain) and it is responsible for the stimulation of the pituitary gland (again in the brain) to secrete TSH, which in turn, stimulates the thyroid gland for producing T4 and T3. The importance of these hormones can be judged from the vital body functions they influence:
- They have a direct impact on the metabolic function as they regulate the consumption and utilization of oxygen by the body and consequently influence the energy production too
- Additionally, these hormones are also responsible for metabolism of fat, carbohydrate and protein and therefore, have an effect on weight maintenance too
- Several other hormones related with brain function, growth, control of heart rate and blood pressure are also related with proper working of the thyroid
- Thyroid hormones of the mother have a bearing on the growth and development of the fetus
Since thyroid hormones are of such great importance, any dysfunction of the gland can have serious implications. A variety of factors may be the reason of such an imbalance and these may range from nutritional deficiencies to high stress levels, infections, genetic causes and exposure to environmental toxins. Whatever may be the cause, thyroid dysfunction needs to be taken seriously, more so by infertile women and also the pregnant ones.
Thyroid Dysfunction- The Missing Link
In some cases, a battery of expensive tests for infertility may surprisingly yield negative results and the couple may end up spending a fortune, just to be told that they are suffering from something called “unexplained fertility”. The fact is that they may subsequently find out that something as common as underactive (or overactive) thyroid gland might actually have been the missing link. Then isn’t it better to study the thyroid function at the first instance and spare the couple the trauma and monetary burden involved in the expensive tests performed otherwise!
A comprehensive thyroid evaluation should actually be recommended for a woman who is battling infertility, particularly in the following cases:
- When she has been trying to conceive and has been unable to do so despite regular, unprotected sex for the past 6 months
- She has an erratic menstrual cycle
- She has experienced recurrent miscarriages
- There is a family history of thyroid dysfunction
Timely detection of the problem not only speeds up the treatment but also ensures that best results come fast for the couples undergoing the trauma as well as social stigma related to infertility.
How does thyroid dysfunction influence a woman’s fertility?
When it comes to studying the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and infertility, focus is on hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, though both hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism can be bad for women trying to conceive. Hypothyroidism implies that the level of hormones produced by the gland is below the normal and this can have an adverse impact on the fertility of a woman.
Low levels of thyroid hormones can lead to anovulatory cycles, which imply that ovulation is disturbed and the ovaries are not able to release the egg. Similarly, it can also cause disturbance in the balance of other reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone as well as stem up certain autoimmune disorders, which have a negative impact on the woman’s ability to conceive.
Another implication of hypothyroidism is that it can lead to luteal phase problems, which could cause an early miscarriage. Luteal phase refers to the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, when a hormone called luteinizing hormone prepares the uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg by thickening the endometrial lining. Hypothyroidism interferes with this process and the fertilized egg fails to implant, being shed off by the body and deemed to be a regular period.
This happens in very severe cases, while pregnancy is quite possible in milder cases and with proper management. However, timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent infertility and a likely miscarriage, in case a thyroid patient does get pregnant. Those undergoing treatment with artificial reproductive technique are also comprehensively tested, with thyroid function tests making an important part of the diagnostics.
Gaudium IVF is a trusted infertility clinic which provides complete testing, effective treatment and support counseling to couples struggling with a variety of infertility issues. Here, patients can get a free second opinion from the award winning fertility specialist, Dr Manika Khanna, who has helped fulfill the parenthood dreams of many.