Gang, today we’re going to talk about something that’s oft-overlooked when discussing thyroid issues: fertility. Yep, we will go into depth to understand the connection between Hashimoto’s and pregnancy.
More specifically, what a Hashimoto’s diagnosis can mean in terms of your reproductive ability. We’ll be honest about it… It’s complicated.
Generally speaking, in the Venn diagram of their working lives, there’s a significant overlap where Endocrinology and Reproduction are concerned. For the most part, that’s just fine – the better they work together, the better you feel. But, if your thyroid gland isn’t performing at its best, that can have several detrimental knock-on effects on your menstrual health. This is the murky world of Hashimoto’s and fertility, and we’re here to guide you through it…
Recap on Hashimoto’s
To just refresh your memory, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, to give the thing its full name, is essentially an under-active thyroid.
As glands go, your thyroid is among the busiest – and most important – in your body. It’s got fingers in all sorts of pies, from heart health to appetite and literally everything in between. So, if it’s not kicking out the right amount of hormones to keep you going, seemingly random things start to go awry. It’s different for everyone, but they generally include never being warm, exhaustion despite an enormous amount of sleep, anxiety, headaches, weight gain…
The list is a very long one. But, one of the earliest and most telling signs that something might be up comes from your periods. They’ll become irregular, unpredictable in volume, and often accompanied by PMS from hell.
Endo Meets Repro
This is basically where your endocrine system meets your reproductive system in a way we can all feel. And those changes can, unfortunately, have wider, unfelt effects. Even if you’re living with a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, you may not know what these changes can actually mean.
So, here’s the crappy news. Irregular periods often mean you’re ovulating less, which drops the chances of conception immediately. Hashimoto’s is also linked to PCOS, and as you may well have read ‘twixt these very Hormona pages, that can have an enormous effect on fertility. And that’s on the days when you’ve enough energy to even think about trying.
In conclusion: Getting pregnant gets harder if you’re living with an under-active thyroid, i.e Hashimoto’s.
Hashimoto’s and pregnancy
Sadly, Hashimoto’s doesn’t just affect your chances of conceiving. It also continues to affect you once you’re pregnant, and it’s not great for the baby either. A healthy, functioning thyroid is essential for fetal development; it’s also essential for the continued health of the mom.
In pregnant women, an under-active thyroid can cause life-threateningly low blood pressure, anemia, and post-partum bleeding. It’s linked to low birth weight in neonates and, believe it or not, miscarriage. No, we didn’t know that either.
Hasimoto’s And Improved Fertility
Now, if you’re a regular Hormona, you’ll know that we haven’t told all of this depressing stuff just to ruin your day. Quite the opposite, in fact. We’re here to tell you that while it’s harder to conceive while living with Hashimoto’s, it most definitely is not impossible.
But, in order to help ensure you’re getting the right care at the right time, there are some things you can be doing to improve your chances. Right off the bat, whether you’ve been diagnosed or not, if you recognize anything we’ve talked about, tell someone. While levothyroxine is amazing, it doesn’t always work straight away. Also, it’s likely your dose will change several times before it’s right for you. So, don’t be afraid to speak up if the meds aren’t working. Likewise, if you’re undiagnosed and think you might have a thyroid issue.
Non-medical ways to improve fertility
If you’re living with Hashimoto’s and want to improve your chances of conception, there are plenty of non-medical things you can be doing.
First off, keep a weather eye on your periods. They’re a really good early-warning system for lots of things, and Hashimoto’s is no exception. If you notice any changes at all – and we mean any – consult your healthcare team. Because changes in frequency, flow, or PMS levels can indicate that something is off. But paying attention to your cycle can also give you a better idea of when and how often you ovulate, which is crucial info.
Outside of periods, look out for any other Hashimoto’s symptoms that reappear, including weird temperature regulation and weight gain. These can also signify that your meds might not be working as they should. Which in turn can affect the chances of conception.
Eat Well, Live Well
Make sure you’re eating a healthy, nutritional diet, and if you can’t, supplements can help fill the gap. In this case, though, ensure they contain iron, selenium, and Vitamin D3. Adding cruciferous – we love that word – veggies, including kale, broccoli, and cauliflower to your diet can help with your general level of endocrine health. As can exercise and plenty of sleep. We know, we know, you’ve heard all of this before. But it really can help.
And for the love of God, and we say this all the time, please try not to stress. Stress is an endocrine response as well, and the last thing you need when you’re living with Hashimoto’s is more of that.
Once you’re pregnant and have Hashimoto’s
The above are all fab advice if you’re still in the trying phase. But what happens if you’re already over that particular hurdle, and you’re pregnant and living with Hashimoto’s?
Well, if that’s the position you find yourself in, congrats, but also, please call your endocrinologist. They should really be in the top five calls you make once your pregnancy is confirmed. Why? Depending on where you are in your treatment, and how severe your Hashimoto’s is, it could be considered a high-risk pregnancy. As such, your healthcare team will want to keep a close eye on you.
It’s An Adjustment
To compensate for the hormonal upheaval that comes with baking a new human in your oven, your thyroxine dose may well change several times. And when you consider you’ll have two thyroid glands working away in your body at that point, variable meds can be understandable. But it also means any symptoms or side effects you experience might get worse. So be prepared to not feel great for a while. And you might need plenty of bed rest before the nine months is up.
Final thoughts on Hashimoto’s and pregnancy
Wherever you are in your Hasimoto’s-meets-conception journey, there are a few things you should never forget: Hashimoto’s can happen to anyone, and nothing that happens because of it is your fault.
And finally, and maybe most importantly, remember to look after yourself. Be good to you. Take your meds, but also, take a day off work once in a while. Don’t berate yourself for feeling less-than-amazing too often. Do congratulate yourself for everything that you’ve achieved while living with a debilitating condition. Because if you look after and love your body, there’s a very good chance it’ll return the favor.
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