Many women with endometriosis or other chronic conditions, tend to suffer from more than one ailment. I invited a friend who is currently battling Hashimotos to talk about the hormonal connection between conditions.
Hashimoto’s, Endometriosis and PCOS have plenty of things in common: they all target women, they’re all chronic, and they all wreak havoc on hormones. It’s no wonder they are often seen together! Despite being separate diagnoses, the comorbidity between these conditions is incredibly high. A study published in the European Journal of Endocrinology reported 3-4 out of every 10 women with PCOS also have impaired thyroid function due to Hashimoto’s Disease. Comorbidity rates for Endometriosis and Hashimoto’s are reported as anywhere between 20-41%. These figures are not at all surprising to anyone who is a part of the online community of women with chronic illnesses, where it is easy to see a trend towards multiple diagnoses.
Our hormones control so much, and if they aren’t happy, you will definitely know about it. Before I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I was going through such a hormonal nightmare that I was convinced I was pregnant. A thyroid condition never entered my mind. Instead, faced with rapid weight gain, exhaustion, hair loss, brain fog, painful and swollen breasts, intense cramps, and spotting, I decided that the only logical explanation was pregnancy. At this time I was on the pill, so pregnancy didn’t exactly make sense, but nevertheless I took 4 different pregnancy tests, alone in a supermarket restroom in a foreign country. Of course, they all came back negative. I didn’t believe them. What else on earth could be having such a dramatic and devastating impact on every part of my body, mind and health? I went to the doctor to ask for a blood test, explaining my symptoms and my belief I must be pregnant. The tests came back with a diagnosis for Hashimoto’s.
The irony is, one of the first things the doctor said to me was “You will never conceive a child, or carry a child to full term with your thyroid numbers like this”. There I was, having been stressing over the possibility that I might already be pregnant, being told that it was in fact, impossible in my current state.
Before diagnosis I had a vague understanding of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s, but I was oblivious to the fact that it was linked to infertility. Infertility is an issue that sufferers of Hashimoto’s, Endometriosis and PCOS are all forced to think about, whether they are ready to or not. In doing so myself, I came to a better understanding of the drastic impact of hormones in the female body. It is my belief that the hormonal component of Hashimoto’s, Endometriosis and PCOS is what links them so frequently in cases of multiple diagnoses.
The silver lining for those suffering with Hashimoto’s is that while conception may be more difficult than average, if your thyroid levels (free T4, free T3 and TSH) and in good ranges and have been kept steady with the appropriate dose of medication, healthy pregnancy is definitely possible. It is much more difficult to get these levels in check and managed the sooner you are aware of them, which is why I am passionate about encouraging women, and in particular women who suffer from Endometriosis or PCOS who already are dealing with temperamental and every changing hormones, to have their thyroid tested.
If you suffer from Endometriosis or PCOS I would urge you to have your thyroid checked more regularly than what is typical for those without these conditions. A yearly blood test is a good way of keeping an eye on things, but don’t hesitate to ask for one at any point during the year if you feel like you are experiencing symptoms. Make sure to ask your doctor for both free T4 and free T3 as well as the standard TSH, as these will be much more revealing. Given that you already have a diagnoses, I would also recommend asking for a TPO antibody check, which will confirm a Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
If you have any questions about my experience please get in touch via the contact page on my blog thyroiddiariesblog.wordpress.com or via my instagram page @the_thyroid_diaries.
Janssen, OE et al, High prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome, Eur J Endocrinol. 2004 Mar;150(3):363-9
Georgia also discusses how acceptance can help prognosis in her latest blog post so definitely check that our too. I found her words resonated deeply with me, as it wasn’t until I accepted my limitations that I felt free.