What I wish I had understood about fertility when I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
This post was originally written by Alanna Lawley and published at her wonderful blog Foodadit, where members of a vibrant community in Berlin share they health experiences.
Alanna and I are currently working on an in-depth article about improving egg quality for women with thyroid issues. Please meet Alanna and her personal story on thyroid and infertility.
Since 2008 I have been working to heal an auto-immune disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which led to an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism).
The thyroid is fundamental for our everyday functioning and is responsible for our metabolic processes, temperature control, hormone production and regulation. When it is underactive, left untreated it can lead to depression, weight gain, extreme fatigue, menstrual disruption and a long list of other symptoms. For those that are struggling with their thyroid health or if you would like to find out more, visit Dr Izabella Wentz’s site.
Infertility is another possible result from this condition. Admittedly, in my early twenties this didn’t really resonate with me. I was focused on improving my energy levels, my ability to concentrate and building enough strength to lead a normal and active life, let alone finding a partner with whom I wanted to build my life with. It was therefore natural for me to focus on balancing and healing my thyroid.
Since my new diagnosis last summer and consequent treatment (read a summary here), I am out of bed and more focussed and higher spirited. Although I was conscious of my cycles being disturbed, I ultimately ignored the topic of fertility. I believed any hormonal imbalances would correct themselves when everything else was under control. I believed I had plenty of time.
Now more than ever women expect to become pregnant later on in life, and whilst our cultural attitudes have shifted there is a disparity with our actual biochemistry. It is my aim with this piece and future collaborations to encourage women whether with Hashimoto’s or not to be conscious of fertility as part of an integrated approach to health, before we start to consider children.
Can thyroid problems cause infertility?
As I was turning 34 earlier this year, I found an endocrine focused gynaecologist who, like my thyroid doctor adopted a functional approach – read the summary of my diagnosis here. I felt reassured as she instantly understood my overall condition and respected the prescribed treatment that had been recommended by my doctor and medical herbalist. Instantly, I felt like I had the right team around me.
As we discussed what tests would be needed, she mentioned that she would also take a reading of the Anti Müllerian Hormone. As this was unknown to me, she explained that it was a test used to measure the remaining egg reserve in the ovaries. In honesty I felt that this was the least of my worries.
On the whole my results were optimistic – the status on essential vitamins had all become within the normal range, a huge shift for the positive. And, whilst some of my hormones were on the lower side, there was a significant improvement compared to six months prior. We moved onto the Anti Müllerian Hormone result. In our fertile years it should measure between 1-8 ng/ml with 8 being the most fertile. At the age of 35 the reading should be around 2.0 ng/ml .
Shockingly, my reading at 34 years old was at 0.3 ng/ml. I was told that there was no time to lose and that if I was not pregnant within six months I should start IVF if I wanted a chance of having a baby.
And, I do.
This result does not mean that I cannot have children – it means that for unknown reasons there are less eggs than is typically expected at my age.
I was instantly prescribed a strict regime of drugs and check ups that in honesty, overwhelmed me. Expectations of my femininity, family and career came into question and the more I thought about it, the more panicked and desperate I felt.
After what I can only describe as a few weeks in turmoil, I decided, along with my partner to take some time before I follow fertility treatment. (Please note that this is my personal choice and should not be misunderstood for medical advice).
What have I done so far?
- I have reached out to the closest people around me – my partner, family and friends and I have been honest about what is happening.
- I’ve taken strength from the many wonderful women around me.
- My new osteopath discovered that my left hip was out of alignment. This had resulted in a compression on the left ovary. I’m working with her to release this and have felt a freer movement in the hips since. If you are having any menstrual irregularities this is one alternative route you could consider having checked.
- Iyengar yoga teacher, Elizabeth Smullens Brass has helped me to build up a more dynamic yoga practice to help stimulate my ovaries to ovulate.
- I’ve been following a simple Ayurvedic cleanse and I’m now increasing my intake of good fats such as eggs, avocados, oily fish, meat and bone broth.
- My medical herbalist has got me drinking Raspberry Leaf tea which may help reduce high levels of prolactin in my body that prevent me to ovulate. So far, it seems to be working!
- And, whilst I was researching the Anti Müllerian Hormone, I found Darja Wagner – Paleo Mama. Darja is a cell biologist PhD based in Berlin. In 2014, Darja published How to Improve Egg Quality: The Smart Way to Get Pregnant. It has since become a number one bestseller in the category of Reproductive Medicine on Amazon. Read Darja Wagner’s article about Ovarian Reserve for those that would like to understand what is meant by our overall egg reserve and how to measure it.
As I currently understand it, it is best for me to focus on improving egg quality and I’m honoured that Darja is collaborating with Foodadit to help people with questions surrounding this topic.
Of course, it can be easy to focus just on female fertility. Getting your partner’s sperm checked is just as important and if you can focus on the comedy, it’s not a wholly terrible adventure!
Thank you Alanna on your wonderful article!
Thank you for browsing around my blog, see you next week,