Thyroid Disease and Menstrual Problems

How Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism Affect Menstruation

Young woman in bed with PMS suffering
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If you are experiencing unusual symptoms around your menstrual cycle, the problem could be your thyroid.

The butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the front of your neck may be small, but it has a big impact on your health--and how you feel. The thyroid produces and balance hormones that affect many bodily functions, like growth, metabolism, and fertility.

If you develop a thyroid disease, it could present itself through your menstrual cycle.

A disorder of an over active thyroid gland is called hyperthyroidism. When you have an under active thyroid gland, the condition is referred to as hypothyroidism.

Thyroid/Menstruation Connection

Thyroid issues can cause a variety of menstrual irregularities and changes, including the following:

Early Menstruation / Precocious Puberty: Hypothyroidism in girls may trigger very early menstruation, i.e., before the age of 10. This early puberty is known as "precocious puberty." Occasionally, if hyperthyroidism occurs very early during puberty, menstrual periods may also begin earlier than usual.

Late Menstruation / Delayed Puberty: Hyperthyroidism in a teenage girl can delay the onset of puberty and onset of menstruation into the mid-teens, in some cases after the age of 15. 

Lighter Periods: Lighter than normal periods are frequently associated with hyperthyroidism.

Infrequent or Sporadic Periods: Infrequent or sporadic periods are frequently associated with hyperthyroidism.



Absent Periods / Amenorrhea: Hyperthyroidism can cause menstruation to stop for longer periods, a condition known as amenorrhea. 

Heavy Periods / Menorrhagia: Menorrhagia is defined as excessively heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, for example, soaking through pad every hour for several hours. Hypothyroidism is associated with menorrhagia.

 

More Frequent, Longer Periods: Hypothyroidism is known to cause periods to come more frequently - for example, some women will find their 28-day cycle shortens to a 25-day cycle, and their normally 5-day long menses lasts 6 or 7 days. 

Painful Menstruation, Dysmenorrhea: Hypothyroidism is associated with painful menstrual periods, known as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea can include an achy or stabbing low backache, nausea, leg aches, feelings of fullness, headaches, and bowel disturbances. Note: If you suffer from severe cramps and painful menstrual cycles, many people suspect endometriosis--but your thyroid could be the cause.

With thyroid disease, fertility is affected, including the ovaries and  you may suffer an inability to become pregnant, or transition early into menopause.

Thyroid and Menstruation Problems--What Should You Do?

Thyroid disease can cause menstrual problems throughout life. From early onset of menstrual cycles to early menopause symptoms, thyroid disease could be the reason for uncomfortable, or upsetting, symptoms.

There are a number of symptoms that should trigger a visit to your doctor. Pay attention to symptoms that include:

  • Cessation of your period for more than three months
  • Serious pain throughout your period
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding that lasts longer than 24 hours, periods that last more than seven days, and periods less than 21 days apart

Thyroid disease can present roadblocks to a healthy pregnancy. As a thyroid imbalance like hypothyroidism can lead to lack of ovulation, becoming pregnant is difficult. Cystic changes in the ovaries caused by thyroid issues can also make it difficult to achieve--and maintain--a healthy pregnancy.

Women moving out of their childbearing years may experience symptoms of thyroid disease that mimic perimenopause, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue, low energy
  • Night sweats
  • Depression, mood swings,
  • Temperature fluctuations, feeling cold, or hot flashes

While these symptoms sound like classic signs of aging and menopause, they are also symptoms o a dysfunctional thyroid. There are millions of women with thyroid disorders that go undiagnosed because they feel their symptoms are a natural part of the aging process.

If you notice any significant changes in your period, particularly regarding length of cycle, degree of bleeding, or frequency of cycle, you should contact your physician for a comprehensive thyroid work up.

Here are some key steps to take to manage menstrual symptoms...

  • Verify that already diagnosed thyroid conditions are under optimal treatment. Even small changes in existing treatment plans can ameliorate menstrual symptoms related to the thyroid condition.
  • Ensure that you are maintaining adequate nutrition, with special attention to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.
  • Investigate vitamin, mineral, and herb supplements for relief. You could check into chasteberry, black cohosh, and ginger, but be aware herbal remedies can have powerful side effects or interact poorly with other medication you may be taking. As the herbal and supplement industry is not regulated, there is no guarantee that the ingredient you want to try, is actually in the bottle you buy. That said, used correctly, and with the right information, there are a variety of supplements that could provide relief to some patients. Always speak with your doctor before taking vitamins, or supplements, if you suspect, or already know you have thyroid disease.

Detailed information regarding the association between menstrual issues and thyroid conditions, as well as further information regarding alternatives for alleviating symptom is available online.

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