Fertility Problems? Check Your Thyroid

By on September 21, 2017

You’ve just turned 30, you’ve been trying to conceive for seven months, and every time you visit, your parents anxiously ask about the “next step”. As you lay your head against your pillow at night, you can almost hear the sound of your biological clock ticking…tick tock. Your physical exam, blood work and your husband’s semen analysis have all come back normal, so what’s the problem? Why aren’t we pregnant yet?

Infertility

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a period of 12 months of unprotected intercourse in a woman of reproductive age, or after a period of 6 months if the woman is 35 or older. Many couples are challenged with the ability to conceive and wind up feeling extremely frustrated and defeated. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples in Canada experience infertility and this number has doubled since the 1980’s! You’re not alone if this is something you are currently struggling with.  There are so many factors that play a role in the ability to conceive including hormones, disease, immune function, weight, nutrient status, toxicity, lifestyle and stress. One factor that comes up often in my practice is the function of the thyroid gland.

Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the front of the neck with two lobes located on either side of the trachea (windpipe). It’s responsible for regulating metabolism but also plays a role in brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight and cholesterol levels.

Thyroid hormone plays a role in reproductive health, helping with ovulation, maintaining the thickness of your uterine lining and successful implantation.  During pregnancy, the production of thyroid hormone plays a key role in the development of the fetus. Thus, normal levels of thyroid hormone play an important role in getting pregnant and maintaining a viable pregnancy, reducing the risk of miscarriage.

Hypothyroidism 

When your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, it can prevent you from ovulating.  It’s one of the potential causes for irregular menstruation. An insufficient amount of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones can disrupt the careful orchestration of hormones that’s necessary for fertilizing an egg. Furthermore, low thyroid hormones will lower your basal body temperature, making it hard for rapid cell division needed by the embryo.

How do you know if the thyroid is an issue?

Have your practitioner test for three things in your blood: TSH, T4 and T3. The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones T4 and T3. TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, is released by the pituitary gland when there are low blood levels of T4 and T3. TSH tells the thyroid to produce more T4 and T3.  A variety of factors, including genetics, stress, toxins, nutrient deficiencies, liver disease and hormonal imbalances can interfere with thyroid hormone production and can even disrupt the signals between your brain and thyroid gland, which can lead to hypothyroidism.

A blood test that indicates hypothyroidism might show high levels of TSH and low levels of T4 and T3.

What if your tests come back normal? Could it still be thyroid related?

It can still be a thyroid problem! First, take a closer look at the result of your TSH. Beside that result should be a reference range of what is considered normal. For TSH, that range is between 0.5 to 6 mIU/L.  However, this reference range for a normal value is actually too broad.

In 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists suggested that treatment should be considered with TSH values outside a reference range of 0.3-3 mIU/L. Therefore a lot of people have undiagnosed thyroid problems. If your result is close to the end of the range, you may have a subclinical thyroid issue.

If you still suspect an issue with your thyroid, you can evaluate the overall function of the thyroid gland by measuring your basal body temperature every morning for a month. This sometimes provides more information about how your thyroid is functioning over a period of time rather than just a snapshot in time with blood work.

Why are we seeing more thyroid issues?

The endocrine system in your body is tightly interwoven. The thyroid gland, adrenal gland and ovaries work in concert to affect the body. Think of these three endocrine glands functioning as a harmonized unit in a beautiful love triangle (this is one love triangle that should not be broken!). When one gland’s hormone production is out of balance, the others are affected too.

A common culprit is chronic stress from our modern lifestyle. Chronic stress will take a toll on our adrenal glands causing a ripple effect on the thyroid. This hinders thyroid function, leading to an underactive thyroid and a sluggish fertile environment.

Dr. Nadia Lamanna is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Medical Advisor & Educator at CanPrev & Orange Naturals. Nadia has also maintained a private practice for over 5 years at Precision Health & Wellness in Richmond Hill..

About Charleen Wyman

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