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Fertility Health A-Z: Hypothyroidism

Can’t keep the weight off and feeling tired all the time? Check the signs for hypothyroidism…

What is it?

Hypothyroidism simply means you have an underactive thyroid. Your thyroid gland makes hormones that control metabolism. If you have hypothyroidism, your body produces an antibody that should normally fight bugs and viruses, but starts to attack your thyroid gland by mistake. As a result, you don’t produce enough hormones, which slows down your metabolism. ‘Certain circumstances may trigger the condition, like pregnancy,’ says Mark Vanderpump, consultant endocrinologist at Royal Free Hospital. ‘Normally, thyroid failure occurs over months and years, but it can happen quicker in some,’ says Mark.

What are the symptoms?

Hypothyroidism is associated with fertility problems and miscarriages, but symptoms vary and it depends on the severity of thyroid inactivity. ‘In general, when your thyroid hormone is deficient your metabolism slows down,’ says Mark ‘You may put on weight, feel tired all the time, experience a loss of energy and fogginess. It’s possible to start losing hair too or find you it becomes really dry.’

What can you do?

After a diagnosis, you’ll be prescribed a synthetic version of the hormone called levo thyroxin, which you usually have to take for life. ‘This replaces your missing hormone and your doctor will find the right balance to help relieve your symptoms,’ says Mark. Thyroid glands need to function well to get pregnant and if you have the condition, you may be prescribed a higher dose of hormone replacements, so it’s a good idea to let your GP know you’re trying to conceive. 'If you’re pregnant, thyroid replacement is really important for the first 12 weeks because a lack of hormones can affect your baby’s development,' says Mark. Again, talk to your midwife or doctor to ensure you’re on the right dose.

See your GP…

If you’re experiencing unexplained weight gain, loss of energy, lethargy, fogginess and hair loss. ‘If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor,’ says Mark. Or make an appointment if you’re already on thyroid replacement tablets and are thinking about having a baby.
For more about the condition, go to Thyroid UK.

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