Undiagnosed thyroid disorders can affect fertility and the health of mother and baby
“Thyroid issues: Mother & Baby” is the theme of this year’s international Thyroid Awareness Week, a campaign developed by Merck in close collaboration with Thyroid Federation International (TFI) and ThyroidChange to raise awareness of thyroid disorders and reduce the impact on our daily lives. This year we are focusing on mothers and babies and the impact of thyroid disorders before, during and after pregnancy.
Do you know that undiagnosed thyroid disorders can affect fertility and the health of mother and baby?
Hundreds of millions of people across the world are currently living with a thyroid disorder,1 with 1 in 8 women developing thyroid problems in her lifetime.2 Yet, there is a staggering lack of knowledge about the impact that thyroid conditions can have on fertility.
A recent international survey showed a lack of knowledge about the impact that thyroid conditions can have on fertility, as only a quarter (24%)* of respondents were aware that undiagnosed thyroid disorders can cause fertility problems. In addition, people are unaware of how undiagnosed thyroid disorders during, and after, pregnancy can have complications for mother and baby.
- Less than half of respondents (48%) were not aware that hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) could cause complications for mother and baby during pregnancy.
- While, less than half (48%) were aware that it is crucial to check for optimal thyroid hormone levels for pregnant women throughout pregnancy.
- Only a quarter (26%) of respondents were aware that new mothers who have no previous history of thyroid disease can develop problems with their thyroid within the first year after giving birth; this is called postpartum thyroiditis (PPT).
- Less than half (45%) of respondents were aware that newborn babies (i.e. one month or younger) need to be tested for congenital hypothyroidism (i.e. underactive thyroid present at or before birth), in case they are born without a thyroid gland or underdeveloped thyroid gland and may require treatment.
Results of the survey indicated that there is a need to better educate people on the possible impact of unmanaged thyroid disorders on fertility and the health on mother and baby.
About Thyroid Disorders
When undiagnosed, thyroid disorders can impact fertility, fetal development and the health of the mother and baby. However, when thyroid disorders are diagnosed and treated appropriately, patients with thyroid disorders can lead normal lives and have healthy pregnancies6.
Watch the stories of four mothers who know all too well how an undiagnosed – and therefore improperly managed – thyroid disorder can affect both mother and baby.
Link to patient videos
Thyroid disorders can affect fertility. If you have been trying for a baby for a while, it is important to know that thyroid disorders, both hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), can sometimes be the cause of fertility problems.3,4 It is advised to get your thyroid checked if you:
– Have been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for more than 12 months5
– Have irregular menstrual cycles5
– Have had two or more miscarriages5
– Have a family history of thyroid disorders6
– Suffer from endometriosis7 or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)8
Pregnancy causes several physiological and hormonal changes that impact the thyroid.
It is crucial for the thyroid gland to function properly during pregnancy; thyroid hormones are essential for the normal development of a baby’s brain and nervous system, and the baby relies on its mother to supply thyroid hormone through the placenta during the first trimester. Thyroid hormones also play a critical role in the development of maintaining the health of the mother-to-be.9
Expectant mothers should be tested for optimal thyroid hormone levels throughout pregnancy to check for the normal development and growth of an unborn child.
Many new mothers have complications with their thyroid in the first year after giving birth, even if they have no previous history of thyroid disorders.
The condition is caused postpartum thyroiditis (PPT) and in most patients, it is a passing and transient condition. However, for some it can lead to a persistent overactive thyroid (hyerthyroidism) or develop into an underactive thyroid (hyporthyroidism).6 For any concerns, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
Thyroid disorders can also affect babies.
Some infants are born without a thyroid gland or under-developed thyroid gland, known as congenital hypothyroidism. These babies with this disorder do not have enough thyroid hormone for their body’s needs, however if correctly diagnosed, in the first few days after birth, and with correct treatment, the disorder can be managed.10
What are thyroid symptoms? View our ‘Symptom checker’ to see.
Remember thyroid disorders can be managed by treatment. Don’t let a thyroid disorder go undiagnosed. If you are concerned that you have symptoms of a thyroid disorder, it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional, who may carry out a blood test.
In addition, yoga can support your overall health and can improve the quality of life in patients with underactive thyroid.11, 12 Take a short break for your health and join our yoga flow:
Link to yoga flow
How to get involved in spreading awareness about how undiagnosed thyroid disorders affect mother and baby
Spread the news on this important topic and let us make a difference in the life of people who suffer from thyroid-disorders. If you’re on social media, keep up with the campaign via our channels on Twitter and LinkedIn, and play your part in the global movement by using the hashtag #ITAW20.
Why are we doing this?
International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW), now in its 12th year, was created to highlight the detrimental impact that thyroid disorders have on people’s quality of life when left undiagnosed. Around 1.6 billion people worldwide are thought to be at risk, with hundreds of millions living with a thyroid condition right now.1 Up to 50% of those living with a thyroid disorder are undiagnosed, and people may be needlessly struggling through their everyday lives without knowing the root cause of their symptoms.13
However, once diagnosed, thyroid disorders are treatable,14, 15 and the ITAW campaign is pushing hard to improve testing and diagnoses globally.
* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 7,208 adults in Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and China. Fieldwork was undertaken from 24 March – 6 April 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (Aged 18+) in each country.
- Khan A, Khan MM, Akhtar S. Thyroid disorders, etiology and prevalence. J Med Sci 2002; 2: 89–94. Available at:http://www.scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=jms.2002.89.94&org=11. Last accessed February 2022.
- Healthy Woman. Thyroid Awareness: What Happens When This Little Gland Goes Haywire. Available at https://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/thyroid-awareness-what-happens-when-little-gland-goes-haywire. Last accessed February 2022.
- Thyroid UK. Signs & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism. Available at: http://www.thyroiduk.org.uk/tuk/about_the_thyroid/hypothyroidism_signs_symptoms.html. Last accessed February 2022.
- Thyroid UK. Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism. Available at: http://www.thyroiduk.org.uk/tuk/about_the_thyroid/hyperthyroidism_signs_symptoms.html. Last accessed February 2022.
- Mayo Clinic. Infertility. Symptoms and causes. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infertility/symptoms-causes/dxc-20228738. Last accessed February 2022.
- British Thyroid Foundation. Pregnancy and Fertility in Thyroid Disorders. Available at https://www.btf-thyroid.org/pregnancy-and-fertility-in-thyroid-disorders. Last accessed February 2022.
- Thyroid-Info. The Endometriosis Connection: Condition is More Common in Women with Autoimmune Disease. Available at http://www.thyroid-info.com/articles/endometriosis.htm. Last accessed February 2022.
- Middle East Medical. Thyroid and Infertility in Women. Available at https://www.middleeastmedicalportal.com/thyroid-and-infertility-in-women/. Last accessed February 2022.
- Pregnancy & Thyroid Disease. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/%20pregnancy-thyroid-disease. Last accessed February 2022.
- Thyroid UK. Better Thyroid Health: Congenital Hypothyroidism. Available at http://www.thyroiduk.org.uk/tuk/about_the_thyroid/congenital_hypothyroidism.html. Last accessed February 2022.
- Singh, P., et al. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. The impact of yoga upon female patients suffering from hypothyroidism. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1744388110000988?via%3Dihub. Last accessed February 2022.
- Akhtar, J. Role of yoga in improving quality of life of hypothyroidism patients. Available at: https://www.ijmedicine.com/index.php/ijam/article/view/1471. Last accessed February 2022.
- American Thyroid Association. General Information/Press Room. Available at: https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/. Last accessed February 2022.
- American Thyroid Association. Hyperthyroidism. Available at: http://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/ata-hyperthyroidism-brochure.pdf. Last accessed February 2022.
- American Thyroid Association. Hypothyroidism. Available at: http://www.thyroid.org/wp-content/uploads/patients/brochures/ata-hypothyroidism-brochure.pdf. Last accessed February 2022.
GL-NONE-00102 Date of preparation: February 2022