Getting pregnant with Hashimoto’s disease is not always easy. In fact, many women and their reproductive doctors don’t know just how connected thyroid health is with fertility. It took me almost two years to get pregnant. IVF was becoming a serious consideration. My gynecologist tested me for thyroid antibodies even though my TSH kept coming back normal. I was experiencing classic hypothyroid symptoms like unexplained weight gain, thinning hair, fatigue, brain fog, cold hands and feet, dry skin etc. Even after finding out that my thyroid antibodies were very elevated, repeated visits to specialists proved to be futile.
I finally started researching the connection between pregnancy and Hashimoto’s disease. The findings, honestly, were a bit unsettling. Hashimoto’s disease can cause infertility and a higher incidence of miscarriage(s). On top of that, babies born to mothers with Hashimoto’s disease and the mothers themselves are at risk for a host of issues…. everything from preeclampsia to neural development issues. How was I going to get a handle on such serious issues when my own doctors didn’t know how, let alone acknowledge there was a connection between my fertility problems and thyroid.
IVF, Clomid and Hashimoto’s Disease
Before you think about going down the IVF avenue, I want you to consider a few things. One of the root causes of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is estrogen dominance. This can mean you have elevated levels of estrogen, low estrogen or it can mean your estrogen levels are normal but out of balance with progesterone (low progesterone). Fertility drugs like Clomid, commonly used when undergoing IVF, can exacerbate thyroid issues.
Clomid hyperstimulates your ovaries to make mature follicles. It does this by tricking your pituitary gland into producing more estrogen. Your endocrine system is made up of your thyroid, ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland amongst other things. What you do to one component of the system will affect all the others. Taking an estrogen stimulating drug may over stimulate your thyroid and set you back not only on your fertility journey but on managing thyroid symptoms… for months.
After learning the above, I knew I had to first solve and manage my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and then the pregnancy stuff would follow. The last thing I wanted was to go through the emotional, physical and financial upheaval of IVF only to miscarry later, granted IVF was even successful with me getting pregnant with Hashimoto’s disease.
Steps for Getting Pregnant with Hashimoto’s Disease
There are always a few clients who hope there is a quick fix to this or that popping a prescription will solve their thyroid and fertility problems. That is wishful thinking. While thyroid hormone supplementation can help, the truth is you must address diet and lifestyle. What you eat, how you handle stress and the supplements you take are, in my opinion, the biggest factors in your fertility success.
So here are the exact steps I took to get pregnant with Hashimoto’s disease:
Step 1. Help your liver.
I am sure you have seen this before if you are a regular reader of my articles. The liver is responsible for a good percentage of thyroid hormone conversion. It converts the inactive form of thyroid hormone, T4, into its active and usable form, T3. It also rids your body of toxins and excess estrogen. Avoid alcohol at all costs. I promise there are other ways to destress, more on that later. Alcohol is extremely detrimental to anyone with thyroid issues and women trying to conceive. It is also estrogen producing. Read more about Alcohol and Hashimoto’s Disease.
Step 2. Do an Elimination Diet.
You have to eliminate excess sugar. It is at the root of inflammation, unbalanced hormones and disease in general. Even too much natural sugar from fruits can be harmful to your system. Sugar elevates hormonal responses and makes issues like PCOS, fibroids and ovarian cysts worse. I was diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager and battled ovarian cysts throughout my 20s and 30s. It was when I embraced a paleo /whole foods lifestyle in my mid to late 30s did no cysts ever reappear and I finally got pregnant!!! You know what else I gave up on my fertility journey? Gluten and dairy. I am a new person, no more joint pain, fatigue, moodiness, brain fog.
To put my Hashimoto’s disease into remission, I did something called the Auto Immune Protocol. It is an elimination diet that rids you of all inflammatory foods for a period of time. Everything from excess sugar, soy, fast foods, dairy, alcohol, coffee and more. It sounds intense but when you have Hashimoto’s disease, your body needs a real reset. My plate was filled with colorful fresh veggies and grass fed meats and good fats. Honestly, it is delicious. You slowly reintroduce foods in a phased manner. I never reintroduced gluten or processed foods. My thyroid antibodies went to 0 in less than two months. I was so taken by how the elimination diet relieved me of symptoms I had for years, that I wrote a guide on it. Here it is:
If you’re not ready to embark on the Auto Immune Protocol, here are things that you should seriously consider removing from your diet when trying to conceive. I am not endorsing a strict no carbohydrate diet. Throw in a small portion of starchy vegetable or sweet potato here and there. Strict no carbohydrate diets can inhibit thyroid hormone and send your adrenal glands crashing. Another important note: Eat organic meat. Commercial, factory farmed meat spikes insulin and estrogen the way sugar does. Why? They have hormones that contain endocrine disruptors and estrogen mimickers!
Step 3. Address Nutritional Deficiencies
You most likely have nutritional deficiencies if you have Hashimoto’s disease. A linkage between intestinal permeability aka leaky gut exists for people suffering from autoimmune disease. And it’s not just autoimmune disease. Leaky gut is connected to people with autism, mental health disorders, ADHD etc etc. You get the picture. Apart from repairing your gut lining, which an elimination diet helps with, you should add back nutrients that are literally being lost through holes in your gut lining.
If you’re not already, strongly consider a bioavailable B complex vitamin. By bioavailable, I mean methylated versions of the B vitamins. Not all supplements are equal. You’ll want to make sure they are free from fillers and free from inflammatory items like gluten, dairy and soy etc. What’s most important is that your B complex vitamin has Folate and not Folic Acid. Folic Acid is a synthesized version of B9 and added to processed foods. Women with Hashimoto’s disease don’t always absorb this. Folate is incredibly important for pregnancy.
Make sure your Vitamin D levels are in range. Vitamin D deficiency has been connected with many diseases, everything from Hashimoto’s disease to cancer. However, only supplement if you are deficient. This is a fat soluble vitamin so toxicity (above range) is not something you want.
The other thing I would start right away is a Prenatal Vitamin, not just when you get pregnant but now... while you are trying. It has a lot of the nutrients that women with Hashimoto’s disease benefit from like magnesium, zinc and selenium. Again, not all prenatal vitamins are equal. Below is my Pregnancy approved supplements on Amazon. I took these when I was pregnant so they have been personally vetted by me.
Or check out Pure Formulas where my approved brands are sold.
Step 4. Sleep and Stress Management
This step is not to be taken lightly. In fact, incorporate it from Day 1. To make a long story short, your body enters fight or flight mode when faced with a stressor. It doesn’t know about modern day stressors like work related emails, social media, a disingenuous boyfriend. Your body only knows that it’s time to conserve resources and store sugar so you can flee or fight. Secondary functions like rest, hair and nails, digestion and fertility take a back seat. You want your body to prioritize those things too. I recommend removing as many stressors as possible whether it’s toxic people or toxic situations.
However, if you cannot remove them from your life…. become an expert at managing the stress that comes along with them. Some wonderful techniques are belly breathing, deep breathing and meditation. Start out with 5 minutes a day. Work your way up to twenty minutes. You will start to see a noticeable shift in your thoughts, perception and reaction to things. Feel free to send me a message if you want some free resources.
Make sure you are sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night. Lack of sleep causes your hormones to become imbalanced and your body to crave sugar and store fat.
Step 5. Monitor Your Thyroid Labs Often
Last but not least, keep on top of your thyroid labs. You will want to ensure they are in optimal ranges for fertility and once you become pregnant! The baby is completely dependent on you for thyroid hormone well after the first trimester, you must have adequate levels or complications can occur. My levels dipped several times throughout my pregnancy and I immediately increases my thyroid hormone medication.
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