Thyroid disease is really common – especially among women. From what I’ve read 10% of women will probably develop some type of thyroid disease in their lifetime. A slightly underactive thyroid probably won’t cause any symptoms that you would notice (fatigue and weight gain are two of the common early symptoms – but life being what it is, even if this happens, you might not notice. I know I would never think being tired or gaining a few pounds were a sign that something is wrong).
I mention this because an underactive thyroid may not be noticeable, but it can interfere with conception, and can increase your risk of miscarriage if you do conceive. This is true even if your TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) is in the “normal” range for women (.5 – 4.5). Most endocrinologists/fertility specialists recommend a TSH level below 2.5 for conception and a healthy pregnancy. I wasn’t aware of any of this when we started trying, but my general practitioner caught my elevated TSH level during my annual physical (and it was only slightly elevated – 4.51, just out of the “normal” range). The good news is that hypothyroidism is easy (and cheap) to treat – just a daily pill. My prescription costs me $10/month. That’s not my co-pay. My insurance doesn’t pay anything (because it’s under my copay), that’s just what it costs. I feel lucky that my GP was on top of this, because otherwise it could have taken us a lot longer to conceive. (We had two unsuccessful attempts before discovering my elevated TSH level. We got pregnant on our first try after I had gotten my level below 2.5 on medication).
I want to share this public service announcement, for folks who think they might want to get pregnant someday – when you go for you annual physical, ask your GP if they check your thyroid level (and if that’s not part of their usual blood work, ask them to add it). It’s a simple blood test, and if you are one of the women who has thyroid issues, you can get them under control before you are ready to try for a baby.
(P.S. There are lots of causes of fertility issues, this is just one that I have experience with. Because it is so common, and especially because it is easy to treat, I just wanted to make folks aware of it. I wish I had known about the effect that having an under (or over) active thyroid could have on conceiving before we started trying, so I am spreading the word).