29 Jan Thyroid Awareness Month
January is thyroid awareness month, and it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on this commonly left out yet very important topic. In this blog article, we’ll be exploring the connection between thyroid function and reproductive health, specifically in women.
But what exactly is the thyroid? Well, it is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck, which plays a pivotal role in regulating your metabolism and helps you maintain a hormonal balance. The thyroid gland produces, stores, and releases hormones that influence the activity of most cells in your body. Thus, for those of you who are planning to start their fertility journey in 2024, understanding the thyroid’s impact on the reproductive system is crucial.
The significance of thyroid hormones in the female reproductive system is underscored by the presence of TSH and thyroid hormone receptors on ovarian and oocyte surfaces. This makes their role in reproductive processes such as folliculogenesis, fertilization, embryogenesis, implantation, and pregnancy, undeniable. Some other studies also seem to suggest that thyroid hormones support FSH-inducing preantral follicle growth, which is especially relevant for IVF, and impairment in thyroid hormones could potentially impact markers of ovarian reserve, such as anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH). But that’s not all: thyroid hormones and their receptors also play a role in regulating endometrial receptivity, and any alterations could adversely affect the placenta.
Some thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism, can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance, which is required for fertility. If hypothyroidism isn’t detected early, it can manifest itself in the form of infertility or recurrent miscarriages. To address this condition, however, an endocrinologist normally prescribes medication so that the patient’s TSH level can fall below 2.5. In men, on the other hand, hypothyroidism can lead to alterations in sperm production, such as a decreased sperm count, a high number of abnormally shaped sperm, or even a reduced libido. For this reason, the thyroid tests are an essential part of the comprehensive fertility assessment of our patients at the clinic. What’s interesting is that there aren’t any studies on the impact of hypothyroidism on IVF outcomes, because all female patients are adequately treated before starting the treatment.
Still, some patients may struggle to regulate their menstrual cycle, despite receiving proper treatment. In such cases, fertility treatments such as IVF present an ideal solution, as they offer a path to achieve pregnancy even when natural conception is challenging due to persistent irregularities. IVF is a recipe for success: doctors carefully monitor patients’ hormone levels, while embryologists follow the embryos’ development in a controlled environment and choose the best-quality embryo for implantation. These two things combined significantly enhance the chances of a successful implantation and a subsequent path to motherhood.
That said, the implications of thyroid health extend beyond implantation: TSH levels influence fetal brain development, growth, and overall health. Untreated thyroid disorders, especially hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, pose risks such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and development issues. This is precisely why the TSH levels are monitored regularly throughout the pregnancy as well.
By now, we’ve established that thyroid health is an integral part of any person’s fertility journey. We hope that, by informing you about this topic, we can empower you to take some proactive steps, such as adopting a thyroid-friendly lifestyle, avoiding some known endocrine disruptors, etc. We also encourage those of you seeking personalized guidance to contact us and book an initial consultation. Our dedicated team of fertility specialists at Reproclinic will evaluate your specific case and provide some insights and recommendations.