January is Thyroid Awareness Month. This is an important time to discuss the many ways that thyroid issues can impact women’s health. At any age, thyroid issues or disease can present many complications to a woman’s well-being. For women in child-bearing years, hypothyroidism has been positively associated with sub-fertility, autoimmunity and infertility. Thyroid hormones play a role in most phases of reproduction.
Women who struggle with thyroid issues may go a long time without a diagnosis. The awareness being brought to this issue right now is important for women who are facing general health issues and issues with fertility.
Facts About Thyroid Disease
There is some useful information available about the prevalence of thyroid conditions and diseases. According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA):
Over 12% of Americans will have a thyroid condition at some point in their life
20 million people in the U.S. have a thyroid disease of some kind
As many as 60% of the people who have thyroid disease are undiagnosed or don’t realize it
One in eight women will suffer from a thyroid condition in their lifetime
The underlying cause of thyroid conditions are not well known
Untreated thyroid issues may cause infertility
Women are as much as eight times more likely to develop thyroid problems than men.
The Office on Women’s Health explains that the primary kinds of thyroid diseases that more frequently impact women are:
While many of these have lasting effects on a woman’s health, hypothyroidism and its underlying disorders may have the most significant impact on fertility.
Hypothyroidism: Signs and Symptoms
Because it may frequently go undiagnosed, it’s important for women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. You may request testing from your doctor if you notice many of these in yourself.
Always feeling cold
Digestive issues, especially constipation
Unexplained weight gain
Pain in the muscles or joints
Dry skin and thinning hair
Reduced heart rate
Puffiness and swelling
High menstrual bleeding
Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid is underactive. A blood test will determine if this is a condition you have. Women need to get their TSH, T3 and T4 tested. There are varying opinions in the field as to the threshold of the TSH level in diagnosing thyroid issues. This may be important to discuss with your doctor. Thyroid antibodies are also a helpful test.
Treatment includes essential medication, usually of a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine.
Thyroid Health and Fertility
The ATA reports that untreated thyroid issues may cause infertility. Additionally, women who are pregnant but not treated for hypothyroidism may suffer miscarriage, preterm delivery and even have children with developmental issues. The thyroid impacts your hormones. This can lead to additional symptoms like sleep issues and muscle weaknesses. If you are trying to conceive, thyroid issues can get in the way. However, once they are treated, your fertility may improve.
If you become pregnant and have thyroid issues, you may require special care. The National Institute of Health explains that numerous thyroid hormones contribute to essential fetal development. Most times, medication will be prescribed and you will be closely monitored.
Thyroid Health News and Resources
There are many ways to learn more about thyroid health. Here are some resources we would recommend to get started.
The American Thyroid Association sponsors numerous educational materials and research to address and advocate for thyroid issues. They have a great website and many publications you can access online.
The Office of Women’s Health—a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services—has informative materials on their website to help familiarize you with thyroid issues and the terms surrounding these conditions.
Endocrineweb.com regularly updates their news and research section with the latest information about thyroid disease.
Learn more about your reproductive health on our website by clicking here.
At Fempower Health, we advocate for better education and resources for women. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram and check back here for the latest news and updates we discover. We want to be a place you can come and find the right information to help you on your journey to wellness.
Cho, Moon Kyoung. “Thyroid dysfunction and subfertility.” Clinical and Experimental Reproductive Medicine, December 2015. Accessed January 30, 2020.