The impact of thyroid diseases starting from birth on reproductive function

Hormones (Athens). 2019 Dec;18(4):365-381. doi: 10.1007/s42000-019-00156-y. Epub 2019 Nov 16.


The aim of this review is to provide relevant information regarding the impact of thyroid disease, starting from birth and mainly concerning hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, on reproduction. Hyperthyroidism occurs much less commonly in children than hypothyroidism, with Graves' disease (GD) being the most common cause of thyrotoxicosis in children. Children born with neonatal GD have no defects in the reproductive system that could be related to hyperthyroidism. Current treatment options include antithyroid drugs (ATD), surgery, and radioactive iodine (RAI). In males, normal thyroid function seems important, at least in some parameters, for maintenance of semen quality via genomic or non-genomic mechanisms, either by locally acting on Sertoli cells, Leydig cells, or germ cells, or by affecting crosstalk between the HPT axis and the HPG axis. Sexual behavior may also be affected in thyroxic men, although many of these patients may have normal free testosterone levels. In women, menstrual irregularities are the most common reproduction-related symptoms in thyrotoxicosis, while this disorder is also associated with reduced fertility, although most women remain ovulatory. An increase in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and androgens, thyroid autoimmunity, and an impact on uterine oxidative stress are the main pathophysiological mechanisms which may influence female fertility. Thyroid hormones are responsible for normal growth and development during pre- and postnatal life, congenital hypothyroidism (CH) being the most common cause of neonatal thyroid disorders, affecting about one newborn infant in 3500. The reproductive tract appears to develop normally in cretins. Today, CH-screening programs allow for early identification and treatment, and, as a result, affected children now achieve normal or near-normal development. Hypothyroidism in males is associated with decreased libido or impotence. Although little is currently known about the effects of hypothyroidism on spermatogenesis and fertility, it has been established that sperm morphology and motility are mainly affected. In women of reproductive age, hypothyroidism results in changes in cycle length and amount of bleeding. Moreover, a negative effect on fertility and higher miscarriage rates has also been described.

Keywords: Hyperthyroidism; Hypothyroidism; Menstrual disturbances; Pediatric thyroid disease; Thyroid disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / pathology*
  • Hypothyroidism / pathology*
  • Infertility / etiology*