How does an underactive thyroid affect conceiving and pregnancy?

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If you know you have an underactive thyroid gland, talk to your doctor about having a baby. Your doctor will want to check your thyroid levels and make sure they are right before you start trying to conceive

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If your levels are too low, you have hypothyroidism and may not be ovulating as you should. Taking the right dose of thyroxine, the hormone you lack, can restore your fertility.

You may have discovered your underactive thyroid as a result of trying to get pregnant. Perhaps your doctor checked your hormone levels because you were having problems conceiving. (Other symptoms of hypothyroidism are exhaustion, depression and putting on a lot of weight.)

You’re not alone in this. Up to five per cent of women who have trouble conceiving turn out to have unusual thyroid levels.

If your thyroid levels are too low then your doctor will recommend that you have treatment to replace the thyroxine hormone you’re lacking. Your doctor will prescribe the right level of thyroxine treatment before you start trying for a baby.

Once you’ve conceived, you’ll need enough thyroxine to help your body to adapt to all the changes that pregnancy brings. Your baby’s developing brain also needs the hormone, so it’s vital that your levels are right.

If you suffer badly from morning sickness, it may make sense to change the time when you take your tablets. Always ask your doctor if you need more advice.

As your pregnancy progresses, chances are that your need for thyroxine will rise dramatically. It may even double. Your doctor will want to check your levels every four weeks for the first three months, then again at 16 weeks and 28 weeks.

You can usually just go to your GP for these blood tests. However, if your thyroxine levels do not stabilise, you may be referred to a specialist. The extra care you receive will help you to have a healthy and successful pregnancy.

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