Thyroid and Me Chapter 6
So during my studies and research on how your thyroid has a big effect on your body, I have noticed a lot of points about how it can affect your menstrual cycles.
In the past 2 months, I have had 2 periods in one month, and although this has no longer occurred, and could be caused by other elements, eg iron deficiency, stress, extreme weight loss or gain, birth control. I thought it would be very interesting to look deeper into this, as being a woman this is something very important, and you should monitor as it could be your body trying to tell you something.
For the past year, I have used a cycle tracking app to help monitor my cycles, and I must say it has been very helpful for me to analyse my patterns, as I can visually see what is going on and if there have been any abnormal changes.
As you can imagine when I had this double cycle in one month, my mind spiraled out of control and I started to conjure up all sorts of stories, medical conditions of what is wrong with me, but I when I took to ‘Dr. Google’ I saw that having an irregular menstrual cycle is a common symptom of hypothyroidism.
Therefore I have decided to share my findings.
Having a period is a normal healthy part of the menstrual cycle. It is the shedding of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) that grows each cycle to support a potential pregnancy.
It is an important indicator of your health, and it’s important to know what is ‘normal’ for you, meaning how often it happens, how light or heavy it is and how long it lasts.
Your period should generally be about the same length and volume each cycle, however, you may notice some changes due to your hormone level which may cause it to fluctuate. But note every period is different, just as everybody is different.
Periods can also fluctuate due to certain health conditions such as hypothyroidism, fibroids or PCOS- conditions that should be addressed with your GP, or healthcare professional. Certain bleeding conditions, medications, and infections can also affect menstrual bleeding and cause irregular spotting.
The thyroid gland, plays an important role in your reproductive health, directly affecting your ovaries and indirectly interacting with sex-hormone-binding globulin (a protein that binds sex hormones).
Here are a number of menstrual irregularities associated with hypothyroidism, ranging from heavy, frequent menstrual bleeding to infrequent, or even absent, menstrual cycles.
- Bleeding that lasts more than seven days
- Bleeding that soaks through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row
- Needing to wear more than one pad at a time to control menstrual flow
- Needing to change pads or tampons during the night
- Menstrual flow with blood clots that are as big as a quarter or larger
Absent or infrequent menstruation
On the opposite end of the spectrum, absent periods (amenorrhea) or infrequent periods (oligomenorrhea) may occur with hypothyroidism. Infrequent menses are more common.
Amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea can occur from the increase in thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) in women with hypothyroidism. The high TRH levels trigger the release of prolactin by the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ located at the base of the brain).
Decrease of Fertility
Because a lack of thyroid hormone can inhibit ovulation, having hypothyroidism can make it difficult to get pregnant. Moreover, women with hypothyroidism who are pregnant have an increased risk of miscarrying during the first trimester.
The upside here is that treatment of hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone replacement medication (levothyroxine) may correct infertility and decrease the risk of pregnancy loss. That said, some women with hypothyroidism continue to experience abnormal menstrual cycles, despite thyroid medication.
Hypothyroidism in young girls can trigger an unusually early start of menstruation, before the age of 10, for example. This early puberty is known as "precocious puberty."
More frequent menstrual periods
Hypothyroidism is known to cause periods to come more frequently, a condition known as polymenorrhea. You may find that your period comes every 21 days, for example, instead of the average 28-day cycle.
Longer menstrual periods
While a typical menstrual period lasts five days on average, hypothyroidism may make your cycle longer, lasting six days or longer.
Painful menstrual periods
Painful menstrual periods are known as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea pain may include backaches, cramps, headaches, and stomachaches, among other symptoms.
I would highly recommend downloading a cycle tracking app as it’s important to keep track of what's going on, and it is easy to lose sight when you try to remember your patterns, without writing it down, and /or can visually see it.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult your GP or healthcare specialist.
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