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Can Graves’ Disease or Hyperthyroidism Affect Fertility?

Can Graves’ Disease or Hyperthyroidism Affect Fertility?

hyperthyroid fertilityDo you know someone or have you been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (high thyroid)? Like hypothyroidism (low thyroid), hyperthyroidism can affect fertility chances for both men and women. While not as common as low thyroid, hyperthyroidism affects 2-3% of the population at some point in their lives. Solving thyroid problems before conceiving is more important than you think!

Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid overproduces hormones, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It causes many symptoms, tends to run in families, and is more common in women than men. Additionally, some people with thyroid problems flip between low and high thyroid levels, adding more complexity to the problem.

While hyperthyroidism requires medical treatment, natural therapies can be considered to ease symptoms and improve fertility. For your best health, it’s important to work with guidance from a qualified health professional if you’ve been diagnosed.

Thyroid hormone testing is necessary to find out for sure, but here are hyperthyroidism symptoms to watch for:

  • Thyroid nodules (goiter); swollen thyroid
  • Bulging or prominent eyes (Graves Orbitopathy)
  • Menstrual cycle changes: short menstrual cycle (less than 5 days), irregular cycles, light cycles or cycles that are far apart
  • Low sperm count/low testosterone
  • High metabolic rate/sweating
  • Racing or irregular heartbeat
  • Insomnia/mood swings/irritability
  • Unexplained weight loss/diarrhea
  • Bone loss/osteoporosis
  • Family history of hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism & Your Fertility

Hyperthyroidism decreases conception chances in a few ways. In men, hyperthyroidism can lower sperm count and testosterone. It increases the risk for ED (erectile dysfunction). In women, it can lead to irregular cycles and affect ovulation. Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is serious because it increases the risk of miscarriage, preeclampsia or preterm birth.

If you have hyperthyroidism and plan to conceive, work closely with your doctor to make sure your thyroid levels are properly managed. Having a healthy thyroid improves your chances of a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Natural Options for Thyroid Balance

Natural therapies can be explored for symptom relief and improved fertility if you have hyperthyroidism, but it is important to continue thyroid monitoring and to have guidance from your doctor or other qualified health practitioners for long term recovery.

Dietary triggers worsen autoimmune thyroid reactions:

  • Watch dietary iodine. Iodine aggravates hyperthyroidism by stimulating thyroid hormone production. Early research links hyperthyroidism to excessive iodine intake in people with preexisting thyroid disease. Limit or avoid iodine-enriched foods like salt, bread and dairy products; and foods high in organic iodine like fish and seaweed.
  • Consider eliminating gluten and get tested for celiac disease. 2012 research published in Polish Journal of Endocrinology finds there is a higher incidence of celiac disease in people who have autoimmune thyroid problems. A report published in BMJ Case Reports suggests untreated celiac disease could make thyroid problems less responsive to medical management. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, following a gluten-free diet is the best way to encourage better gut and thyroid health. Learn more: Can a Gluten-Free Diet Improve Fertility?
  • Eat calcium and magnesium-rich foods like almonds, dark leafy greens, carrots, legumes, avocado and broccoli for bone health. Graves’ disease makes it harder for the body to absorb bone-building minerals. Add Coral Calcium or another calcium/magnesium supplement for extra bone health support.
  • Ask your doctor about selenium therapy. Research finds selenium improves quality of life, slows the progression of thyroid eye disease (Graves Orbitopathy), and improves outcomes for eye health. Today, the European Thyroid Association recommends a six-month trial of selenium supplementation for people with thyroid eye disease. The safe upper limit dosage for an adult is 400mcg daily (including from food sources). Have your selenium levels evaluated and ask your doctor about the best dosage for your needs.

Calm symptoms with herbs. Try gentle teas or high-quality herbal extracts as directed for the best results.

  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)- helps relax the heart, ease stress reactions and insomnia.
  • Bugleweed (Ajuga virginicus)- supports normal thyroid function; may help prevent thyroid antibodies from binding to the thyroid.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)- supports normal thyroid function; decreases anxiety and sleeplessness.

Rebalance Thyroid Health- Restore Fertility

Having hyperthyroidism can be disrupting to your fertility efforts, but effective treatment options (natural and medical) are available. For some people, hyperthyroidism is a lifelong issue. For others, it’s a transient problem, lasting only a few years. Find out about all your choices for support. Work with your doctor if you suspect hyperthyroidism is affecting your health and fertility.

References

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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