One of the conditions most commonly associated with weight gain and difficulty conceiving in women over the age of 30 is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. That is not surprising given that 5 percent of the world’s population is or has been affected by the autoimmune condition, with over 80 percent of those being women.
WHAT IS HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS?
In women with Hashimoto the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which secretes the hormones Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). Due to structural and functional damage, over time the thyroid gland starts to secrete smaller amounts of T3 and T4. The medical term for this condition is “hypothyroidism” (“hypo” – sub, low). The main function of both hormones is to regulate basal metabolic rate, heart rate and body temperature. When T3 and T4 levels are low, the metabolic and heart rates drop and body temperature decreases. This leads to a number of other symptoms, most notably constipation, fatigue and weight gain.
GETTING PREGNANT WITH HASHIMOTO
As we have discussed in previous articles, being overweight by itself makes conceiving more challenging because of the hormonal imbalance it causes. The increased amount of fatty tissue converts male sex hormones (androgens) into female sex hormones (estrogens). Often this is accompanied by insulin resistance (cells do not react to insulin), which in turn leads to elevated levels of insulin and androgens (male sex hormones). All of these factors have a negative effect on ovulation. It can become irregular or stop completely, which makes getting pregnant more difficult.
Even if they are not overweight, women with Hashimoto have a hormonal imbalance associated with decreased levels of T3 and T4. This can in itself lead to ovulation disorders and difficulty getting pregnant.
Even after getting pregnant, hormone levels in women with Hashimoto have to be monitored much more closely, because pregnancy has higher demands on the thyroid gland. If those are not met complications and even miscarriage can ensue. However, close monitoring of the pregnancy and good management of the autoimmune condition greatly improve chances of an uncomplicated pregnancy carried to term.
All this may sound alarming but remember that modern medicine offers very good management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The most important thing is early diagnosis! In February 2018, the famous American supermodel Gigi Hadid announced on social media that she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease. However, that did not stop her from becoming the 5th highest paid model in 2017, with $ 9.5 million annual income.