Are you trying to get pregnant for a year or more, but are still unable to conceive? Before resorting to assisted reproduction procedures like IVF etc., ensure that your thyroid is functioning normally.
Why is Normal Thyroid Function Important in Pregnancy Planning?
Normal thyroid gland functioning is essential for conception and maintenance of pregnancy. An over or under functioning thyroid gland can inhibit conception and prevent the occurrence of pregnancy. Thus it is vital for women who wish to get pregnant to undergo thorough thyroid testing. Getting thyroid testing becomes more important if the female is having irregular menstrual cycles and hasn’t been able to conceive for more than a year; has a family history of thyroid issues or has had 2 or more miscarriages.
What is the Function of Thyroid Gland?
Thyroid gland is situated in the frontal part of the throat, just above the collar bones and exactly beneath the voice box. The thyroid hormone keeps a check on the hormonal and metabolic levels of the body and helps to maintain a healthy body weight balance. Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH) in the hypothalamus triggers the secretion of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which further initiates the production of Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). These hormones are responsible for optimal thyroid functioning.
What are the Factors that Affect the Thyroid Health & What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Problem?
At times the thyroid gland produces too much or too little of the thyroid hormones. The condition of excessive release of thyroid hormone in the body is called hyperthyroidism while highly restricted production of the same hormone is termed as hypothyroidism. While the former can speed up many body functions, the latter can slow down the same.
Many reasons can affect thyroid levels in the body. Some of these are immunity disorders, nutritional deficiencies, regular exposure to high stress levels and excessive levels of prolactin and estrogen in the body.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism: The symptoms of hypothyroidism are extreme hair loss, chronic fatigue syndrome, abnormal weight gain, and muscle pains. Loss of sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty in conceiving and depression are some other psychological and physical symptoms of underactivity of the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism: On the other hand, excessive sweating, sudden and unexpected weight loss, rapid heartbeat and brittle hair quality are symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Over-active thyroid is also indicated by increased appetite, anxiety, enlarged thyroid gland and changes in menstrual cycles.
How Does Thyroid Influence your Fertility Potential or your Pregnancy Planning?
Anovulatory Cycle: The condition where there is an absence of ovulation is called anovulatory cycle. This arises due to problems with the thyroid gland. Women suffering from thyroid issues experience anovulatory cycles. The absence of eggs in anovulatory cycle directly affects the chances of pregnancy as without the eggs fertilization cannot take place and pregnancy cannot occur.
Implantation Problems: Thyroid disorder may lead to problems in the luteal phase which can affect menstruation cycle and progesterone levels in women. Irregular thyroid levels make it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach itself to the uterus and leave the body hence leaving to early menstruation or very early miscarriage which can be mistaken as a regular period.
Low Basal Body Temperatures: Lower basal body temperatures result from weak thyroid function. Correct body temperature is required for fast division of cells. An embryo may not develop if the mother has low basal body temperature and thereby increases the chances of miscarriage.
High Prolactin Levels: Increased prolactin production, due to high TRH and low Thyroxine levels do not support ovulation and thus negatively impacts fertility and affects pregnancy planning.
How to Improve Your Thyroid Gland Functioning for Successful Pregnancy?
To live a healthier life and improve the functioning of the thyroid gland, one must follow a healthy, nutritious and well balanced diet. Foods rich with omega-3, L-Tyrosine, zinc and Vitamin A, B, C, and E must be consumed to improve thyroid gland functioning. Further, overeating and consumption of excessive salt should be avoided to keep the thyroid levels in check and to improve the chances of conception. Women having irregular thyroid levels and who are planning to conceive or who are pregnant should definitely consult a. Endocrinologist. The endocrinologist can provide the right guidance and prescribe proper medications to help normalise the hormone levels and improve the chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy. These medications are also important to reduce the risk of complications or miscarriages during pregnancy.
Which Medical Tests Help to Determine Your Thyroid Health?
During the pregnancy phase, the debilitation of thyroid gland can be detected by performing the following tests:
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Test: The level of thyroid functioning can be examined through a TSH test. Primary hypothyroidism is a result of high level TSH content. However, if the TSH is low, it indicates overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism.
Free T4 Test: FT4 is higher in patients suffering from hyperthyroidism and patients suffering from hypothyroidism have low FT4 levels. T4 test done in combination with TSH test gives more accurate results and helps in proper planning of pregnancy.
T3 Test: This test helps in detecting the degree of severity of hyperthyroidism. Patients with hyperthyroidism have higher T3 levels. T4 and T3 levels rise during pregnancy and also due to birth control pills. Estrogens boost the quantity of binding proteins. For thyroid evaluation, both TSH and free T4 test must be performed.
Thyroid Antibody Test: Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism can also be detected by performing the Thyroid Antibody Test.
Radioactive Iodine Uptake (RAIU) Test: To analyse the efficiency of thyroid functioning, one can also take up a Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test. This test helps the doctor to track the amount of iodine taken up by the thyroid gland and helps to find out if there is proper functioning of the thyroid gland which is determined by the amount of iodine extracted by the gland.
How Does Pregnancy Affects Thyroid Functioning?
Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) and estrogen are the two pregnancy-related hormones which are responsible for increasing the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. hCG made by the placenta is similar to TSH and mildly stimulates the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. Higher levels of thyroid-binding globulin are results of increased estrogen, also known as thyroxin-binding globulin, a protein that transports thyroid hormone in the blood. These normal hormonal changes can sometimes make thyroid function tests during pregnancy difficult.
Thyroid hormone is critical for normal development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. During the first trimester, the fetus depends on the mother’s supply of thyroid hormone, which comes through the placenta. At around 12 weeks, the baby’s thyroid begins to function on its own.
The thyroid enlarges slightly in healthy women during pregnancy, but still not enough to be detected through a physical exam. A noticeably enlarged thyroid can be a sign of thyroid disease and should be evaluated. Thyroid problems can be difficult to diagnose in pregnancy due to higher levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, increased thyroid size, fatigue and other symptoms common to both pregnancy and thyroid disorders.
Thyroid diagnosis should be done as soon as possible for a woman who is struggling to become a mother or has experienced miscarriages before. To sustain a healthy pregnancy it is important to balance the thyroid levels in the body.