MANAGEMENT OF ENDOCRINE DISEASE: Thyroid and female infertility: more questions than answers?!

Eur J Endocrinol. 2021 Apr;184(4):R123-R135. doi: 10.1530/EJE-20-1284.


Severe thyroid dysfunction may lead to menstrual disorders and infertility via direct and indirect interactions with the hypothalamo-pituitary-ovarian axis and the reproductive organs. However, the exact prevalence of infertility in women with thyroid disorders remains unknown. Fertility problems may persist even after restoring normal thyroid function, and then surgery and/or an assisted reproductive technology (ART) may be necessary to obtain a pregnancy. The initial step in an ART treatment is the ovarian stimulation, putting strain on the thyroid gland, potentially leading to (permanent) hypothyroidism in women with thyroid autoimmunity (TAI) or when already treated with thyroid hormones (LT4). Moreover, women with ovarian and unexplained causes of infertility have a higher prevalence of TAI. In women treated with LT4, a serum TSH level <2.5 mIU/L should be targeted before ART. In women with TSH levels >4.0 mIU/L, fertilisation rates, embryo quality and live birth rates may be impaired but also improved with LT4 therapy. In euthyroid women with TAI, LT4 should not be given systematically, but on a case-by-case basis if serum TSH is >2.5 mIU/L. For all of the above reasons, women of infertile couples should be screened routinely for the presence of thyroid disorders. In this review, we will focus on the gaps in the current knowledge, the remaining questions on the associations between thyroid (disorders) and (assisted) reproduction and make proposals for future investigations that may lead to a better understanding and contribute to novel treatment options in the long term.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Hypothyroidism / etiology
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovary / physiopathology
  • Ovulation Induction / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Thyroid Diseases / complications*
  • Thyroid Diseases / physiopathology
  • Thyroid Gland / physiopathology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / drug therapy