Infertility is a deeply personal issue that can lead to feelings of loss, grief, isolation, and frustration. Sadly, the inability to conceive a child can also cause a couple to feel embarrassment, stress and even lowered self-esteem.
If you have been unable to become pregnant, Dr. Ruthie Harper, MD in Austin, TX is here to help you determine the underlying cause(s) of your fertility issues and offer you the treatments that may help.
Generally, a fertile couple under age 30 has about a 25% chance of conceiving in any menstrual cycle. For each year that the couple is over 30, the chances of pregnancy become less. And as a woman ages, many factors can cause a decline in fertility including: the quality of healthy eggs; the number of days she produces high-quality cervical fluid; and the number of ovulatory cycles vs. non-ovulatory cycles.
However, one very common but often overlooked contributor to infertility is hormone imbalance. A woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, thyroid hormones, prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) can all affect ovulation and fertility.
Infertility & Thyroid Imbalance
The health and proper functioning of a woman’s thyroid gland is directly related to her menstrual cycle, and her fertility. While most people associate the thyroid with metabolism or energy, the thyroid gland interacts with every other hormonal system in the body including the ovaries. So, when a woman is having difficulty getting pregnant, evaluation of her thyroid for optimal function must always be considered.
Thyroid problems come in two forms: hypothyroidism (producing too little thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (producing too much thyroid hormone).
Infertility & Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a common, but often undetected, contributor to menstrual cycle irregularity and fertility problems. Hypothyroidism can lead to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels, which leads to irregular cycles causing infertility issues. Insufficient thyroid hormone can also disrupt metabolism and reduce cellular energy, affecting normal ovulation.
Additionally, low thyroid function causes a shortened luteal phase (the days after ovulation when the body prepares for pregnancy), as well as reducing the quality of the cervical fluid that allows sperm to enter the uterus and reach the egg.
Hypothyroidism is the most prevalent form of thyroid disease, and greater than 90% of people diagnosed with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system begins to attack the thyroid gland. This form of hypothyroidism can result in irregular, short or absent menstrual cycles, contributing to infertility.
Infertility & Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism (Grave’s Disease) is the opposite condition, where an excessive amount of thyroid hormone is produced. Though less common than hypothyroidism, Grave’s Disease can also result in overstimulation of the body which can lead to difficulty getting pregnant.
Because optimal thyroid function is critical to the health of the baby as well as the mother, pregnancy will typically not be possible unless thyroid levels are not only “normal” but are “optimal”.
A complete thyroid evaluation in cases of infertility requires TSH testing, as well as additional tests of thyroid function including total T4, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies (both thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase antibodies).
Infertility & PCOS Hormone Imbalance
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of female infertility, affecting about 10% of women. It is caused by an overproduction of hormones including insulin and male hormones. This hormone imbalance leads to production of immature follicles that rarely release eggs – making it difficult or impossible to become pregnant.
Dr. Harper can perform diagnostic tests to see if PCOS may be the cause of your inability to conceive. An ultrasound can reveal enlarged white ovaries that appear to have a ‘string of pearls’ on the surface due to immature follicles that don’t reach maturity to release an egg with PCOS.
She can also evaluate your hormone levels, including elevated testosterone and LH levels (including LH produced in excess of Follicle Stimulating Hormones) – which is the opposite of the normal hormone ratio needed to conceive. And, testing for Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) will measure the number of follicles present, determining if a normal or excessive number of follicles are present- an important marker for PCOS.
Infertility & Excessive Prolactin Hormone
An excessive of the hormone prolactin (hyperprolactinemia) can suppress follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteal hormone (LH) both of which are vital for ovulation. Women produce prolactin when breastfeeding, which is why there is a decreased possibility of conception while a mother is still nursing her infant.
In rare cases, a woman can also have a small (usually benign) pituitary tumor which produces prolactin and prevents ovulation, causing infertility. So, checking prolactin hormone levels should always be part of the evaluation for women having difficulty becoming pregnant.
Infertility Treatments – Austin, TX
While there are many causes of female infertility, many of them are related to an underlying hormone imbalance or deficiency. Unfortunately, many times the simplest and most obvious reasons that pregnancy is not occurring, such as hormone imbalance are not addressed.
Austin, TX board-certified Internist Dr. Ruthie Harper, MD is an Integrative Medicine Specialist who is both passionate and compassionate when helping identify the cause of your infertility. She offers a wide array of comprehensive, cutting-edge diagnostic procedures, along with scientifically developed health protocols, that can identify and remedy your underlying medical issues so that your body is better able to conceive.
If you are struggling with infertility, we welcome you with open arms at Ruthie Harper, MD Integrative Health in Austin, TX. We understand the grief and stress of infertility – and we are here to assist you with love, compassion, and the latest diagnostics and integrative medical technologies to help you have the family you have dreamed of.