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Your thyroid and infertility

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The thyroid is a gland located at the base of your neck. It is a primary component in metabolism, and plays a significant role in many areas of a woman's reproductive life, from conception through to delivery. 59 million Americans, mostly women, currently have thyroid abnormalities in the U.S. A significant percentage of these women are currently trying to conceive a baby. Could you be one of them?

Thyroid problems fall along two specific lines, 1) hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is overactive and producing an overabundance of thyroid hormone and 2) hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland is underactive and not producing enough.

Ironically, both extremes can present problems for women who are trying to get and stay pregnant. Women with hypothyroidism may produce too much prolactin, which is the hormone that helps to create and maintain breast milk. Too much prolactin can adversely affect fertility by inhibiting ovulation and therefore, conception.

Women with undiagnosed hyperthyroidism may be at greater risk of miscarriage or premature birth, making it hard or impossible to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

It should be a no brainer that your thyroid is tested when you are first experiencing difficulties conceiving but unfortunately this is not often the case. The reason is simple. The symptoms of both underactive and overactive thyroid are often vague and attributable to a wide variety of other disorders and include sleeplessness, weight loss or gain, constipation, memory loss, or hair loss.

A good rule of thumb is simply this. If you are having trouble getting or staying pregnant, ask your doctor for a full battery of thyroid tests. These include the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) Test, the T4 test, the Free T3 test, and the Autoimmune Antibodies Test. In addition, make sure that your physician is a reproductive endocrinologist or other specialist who can accurately analyze the results of these blood tests and integrate them into your diagnosis, by evaluating your symptoms, taking your medical history and performing a clinical exam. Follow up treatment is key, particularly if you are placed on medication, as your dosage will need to be carefully evaluated over time.

Your thyroid affects virtually every system in your body. If you are trying to get pregnant, particularly if you are over the age of 35, make sure that a full battery of thyroid tests are part of your initial infertility workup.

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