Are you struggling with infertility or know someone who is? It is an increasingly common problem. According to the CDC 10% of women in the United States suffer from the inability to have children (termed impaired fecundity) . It is such a common problem that there are now medical fertility clinics. Perhaps you’ve considering going or have already gone to such a clinic.
In the past several months I’ve had several patients who have spent over $20,000 on fertility treatments to no avail! While there are many things that can cause infertility, did you know hypothyroidism is one of them? What was so interesting about the patients in my office is they were all tested for thyroid malfunction and were incorrectly told they were normal. Some of them were even on thyroid medication and knew they had a thyroid problem. They were told their medication was working, but it was not! Let’s look at some statistics.
One of the most common ways in which hypothyroidism causes infertility is by driving high prolactin levels. An elevated TSH often correlated with a high prolactin level. High prolactin levels can have negative effects on female sex hormone levels and inhibit ovulation . Thyroid hormones are also necessary for the maturation of phase 2 enzymes in the liver necessary for hormone detoxification. This can lead to faulty estrogen metabolism and problems like PCOS, or immature follicular development. Hypothyroidism can also cause amenorrhea and contribute to a lack of a regular cycle in females that can be reversed by proper thyroid care .
But women are not the only ones who can suffer from infertility due to hypothyroidism. It causes problems in men too! Hypothyroidism can cause a lack of steroidogenesis (production of male hormones) such as testosterone needed for fertility .
Any easy way to organize the train of thinking is to center around the pituitary gland. The pituitary is responsible for secreting TSH to stimulate thyroid hormone production. The pituitary is also responsible for signaling FSH (Which stimulates estrogen and follicular development in females and spermatogenesis in males.) and LH (Which stimulates progesterone in females and testosterone in males). Problems in the thyroid can create havoc at the pituitary disrupting FSH and LH. Altered FSH and LH can create abnormal follicular development, poor ovulation, problems with implantation, miscarriages, abnormal spermatogenesis, and menstrual dysregulation along with other negative symptoms.
So, if you are struggling with infertility what should you do?
Go get your thyroid tested!
Please see our articles on thyroid testing and how often thyroid disorders are missed, but here are the basics. Your TSH should be less than 3.0 according to the American Association of Endocrinologists. Also, please get more than just a TSH test. I recommend a TSH, T4, T3, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, Thyroid Binding Globulin, and Thyroid Antibodies. Just getting a TSH is not enough!
If you already take thyroid medication check yourself for other thyroid symptoms such as fatigue, inability to lose weight, depression/anxiety, hair falling out, dry hair/skin, cold all the time, cold hands/feet, and thinning of the outer 1/3 of your eyebrow. If you have a cluster of these symptoms then your medication IS NOT WORKING! You’ll need a good functional medicine doctor to find out why your thyroid medication is ineffective.
That’s all for today everyone. Thank you for reading. In a future article we’ll talk about another cause of infertility that does not often get tested for, autoimmune infertility.