Hi there. Are you and your partner actively trying to get pregnant? Has this been going on for more than a year? If so, don’t be alarmed by the situation. Studies suggest that 12% to 15% of couples are unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex.
Luckily, this situation is not permanent. Thanks to fertility testing, couples can ascertain the problem impacting their fertility. The assessment details the underlying course, and doctors can advise on the best treatment. With this in hand, you or your partner can be pregnant in a few months.
As you may know, hormones play a crucial role in the female and male body. One such role is in the reproductive system, which consequently impacts women’s fertility. For instance, a lady’s hormone levels fluctuate monthly during her menstrual cycle. The fall and rise of the hormones directly impact egg growth in the ovary, implantation, and conception. Moreover, it can also affect milk production after conception and pregnancy survival.
A doctor assesses the patient for hormonal imbalances in infertility cases to determine the primary cause. Despite being a lengthy activity, the assessment then advises on treatment for infertility in females and males by achieving the right balance of hormones.
For females, four crucial hormones impact fertility. For males, it’s the semen that counts (literally and figuratively).
Read more to learn about the essential role these hormones play in fertility and the tests you can get done to treat it.
Let’s dive in!
What are the Key Female Fertility Hormones?
There are four essential fertility hormones in a female’s body:
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
- Oestrogen (Oestradiol)
- Luteinising Hormone (LH)
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
The Follicle Stimulating Hormone is among the first hormones the female body releases. This hormone is critical in stimulating female egg development and sperm production in males.
The pituitary gland produces the FSH, which then stimulates the growth of the follicles during the follicular phase (first half of the menstrual cycle). Besides, it also stimulates oestradiol (estrogen) production, which further promotes the growth of the egg follicles. This stage lasts for approximately sixteen days.
The FSH levels in a female’s body tend to be highest a few days before ovulation. If your body fails to produce enough FSH hormones, you will likely face irregular ovulation or none at all. On the other hand, excessive hormone production signals that the ovaries’ quality is low.
Oestradiol is a form of estrogen the ovaries produce. As follicles continue to develop in the ovaries, they release estrogen. Estrogen then causes the womb lining (endometrium) to thicken. This is a critical step in preparing the womb for a pregnant state.
Before the release of the dominant follicles in the ovary, the estrogen level rise, causing Luteinizing Hormone (LH) production. The LH hormone’s gush further stimulates the dominant follicle’s growth, resulting in its release.
Additionally, estrogen production is vital in promoting sperm survival. Oestrogen stimulates mucus secretion inside the uterus, which is essential in providing an ideal environment for the sperm.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
LH is another equally essential hormone that impacts fertility. In males, it promotes testosterone production, affecting sperm count and libido. In females, it plays a pivotal role in regulating ovary functions. Also, it fosters egg release from the ovary during the luteal phase.
Like the FSH hormone, the pituitary gland produces and releases the LH hormone. As a gonadotropin LH production is a factor of the hypothalamus releasing the gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Once the GnRH is released, the hormones bind to the pituitary gland receptors stimulating LH production and release.
The LH also promotes the production of the corpus luteum after the fertilization of the egg. In turn,the corpus luteum stimulates progesterone production, which is critical in supporting pregnancy.
Similarly, excessive production of this hormone in females promotes their susceptibility to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). On the other hand, low production could result in a failed ovulation.
As mentioned earlier, progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum after egg fertilization. The hormone production signals the ovary to begin progesterone production to promote pregnancy survival. Also, progesterone is vital in preparing the uterus for egg implantation by stopping the thickening of the endometrium. If fertilization occurs, progesterone levels will increase, which will be undertaken by the placenta.
If fertilization doesn’t occur, the progesterone level will drop, and menstruation will ensue.
Sperm, also known as ejaculate, is the fluid that enables the sperm’s motion to meet the ovum. Semen quality is essential in dictating the conditions for fertility. In a single ejaculate, the semen should contain at least 15 million sperm per milliliter. This high number increases the likelihood of fertilization. Also, little sperm presence in an ejaculate lowers the possibility of fertilization.
What Role Do Hormones Play in Fertility?
Cases of infertility are often downplayed as a woman’s issue—quite the contrary. Fertility and egg fertilization is a play of both the male and female hormones. Excessive or little production of these hormones affects the various stages of conception.
As we’ve discussed the essential hormones that impact fertility, here is a keen insight into their role in promoting fertility.
Egg and Sperm Production
The follicle-stimulating hormone is pivotal in female ovum production and sperm in males. This occurs through stimulating follicle growth. If a woman fails to produce adequate FSH before ovulation, it can cause an irregular or failed ovulation. In men, it can result in a low sex drive.
Levels of FSH in the body tend to fluctuate in the menstrual cycle. High levels of the hormone are often present before ovulation. On the other hand, the level of FSH in men does not fluctuate.
What’s more, the LSH works closely with the luteinizing hormone to regulate sexual functions.
Egg Release and Implantation
The release of progesterone in a woman’s body promotes egg implantation. It also stimulates the production of the hormone by the ovary, which is critical in supporting pregnancy. As the FSH stimulates follicles’ growth, the LH promotes its release from the ovary.
Other hormones such as androgens, thyroid, and prolactin can also affect ovulation. Androgens typically exist in small amounts in the body. However, a surplus production can impair follicle development, cervical mucus production, and ovulation. Prolactin hormones stimulate the production of milk. Some medications may affect the production of prolactin which consequently affects milk production. Finally, thyroid hormones present as an aftermath of high prolactin levels. This surge can lead to hypothyroidism.
So What is Fertility Hormone Testing?
Fertility hormone testing is an assessment that checks for infertility in males and females by identifying hormonal imbalances. If you’re here, chances are you’ve come across other names, such as “ovulation test” or fertility test.” These names bear the same meaning, and you can use them interchangeably.
As you know by now, hormones control varying stages of your pregnancy. If one hormone is not produced at a specific amount and time, ovulation may fail, and chances are you won’t get pregnant. A fertility hormone test will help a doctor identify your diagnosis and prescribe the proper treatment.
When going in for a hormone fertility test, you will likely get some bloodwork done at different times in your cycle. We’ve made it simple to understand what tests you need to complete and when.
Types of Fertility Hormone Tests
A Luteinizing Hormone test is conducted at the beginning of your cycle (mostly day 3). The test is imperative in ascertaining when you’re ovulating. LH has now been quite common, and it’s easy to find the tests going by other names such as “Fertility Tests,” “Ovulation Tests,” or “Ovulation Predictor Kits.”
The test is poignant for couples who are trying to become pregnant. It reveals when you or your partner is likely to commence ovulation.
Therefore it becomes crucial to understand when to have intercourse for better chances of fertilizing the egg. However, you should know this is only one test in a pool of about four in your conceiving journey.
How is an LH Test Done?
An LH test is a short procedure where a doctor draws out a blood sample from your arm. This sample is then assessed in the lab for LH levels. If you’re not ovulating, your LH levels help determine why.
Your doctor may request blood drawn samples over a certain period since LH levels tend to fluctuate with your menstrual cycle. This frequent sampling and analysis help ascertain an accurate LH level measurement.
When preparing for the test, your doctor may advise against some medication impairing your results. This could include hormone bills or birth control pills. If you’re taking the test from home, it is of importance to have it in the morning and avoid drinking water four hours beforehand. This ensures your LH levels and urine are concentrated.
FSH tests measure the level of follicle-stimulating hormones in your blood. The FSH hormone stimulates and prepares the eggs for ovulation. During the first days of your menstrual cycle, the level of FSH increases to commence the process.
Each female is born with a handful of eggs that will support their menstrual cycle for a given period. This is known as the ovarian reserve. As the woman ages, the eggs in the ovarian reserve reduce. In such scenarios, it is challenging to stimulate the ovary to produce an egg. Your body will then respond by producing high FSH levels since your ovaries work twice as hard to stimulate ovulation.
An FSH test will help a doctor determine your ovarian reserve by assessing your FSH levels. For women, it can help determine menopause, infertility problems, abnormal menstrual bleeding, and diagnose polycystic ovary syndrome. In men, an FSH test can help identify the reason behind infertility. It can also reveal the reasons for low sperm count and any problems with the testicles.
How is an FSH Test Done?
Like the LH test, an FSH test requires a blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm. The test may have moderate pain during the needle insertion. Others may experience a prick or sting. Also, the process takes less than five minutes.
The drawn sample is then collected in a vial and analyzed.
Your doctor may ask you to have the test done at a specific time during your menstrual cycle. This is primarily the case if you’ve not reached menopause.
Checking your blood level to ascertain the estradiol levels is a standard fertility test. Understanding your estrogen levels when attempting to conceive can help provide relief during your TTC journey.
Early in your cycle, the estrogen levels rise to thicken the uterine lining. This is typically an indicator that ovulation is about to start. Aside from that, the estradiol tests also check whether your ovary can produce eggs.
An imbalance of estrogen levels can lead to a condition known as estrogen dominance. This condition gravely impacts conception since estrogen levels are higher than progesterone.
How is an Estradiol Test Done?
Like other fertility tests, an estradiol test is administered on your arm. A doctor draws a blood sample from your vein and places it in a tube for analysis.
An estradiol test can sometimes be done at home using a urine sample. However, the pee tests can only accurately measure one marker of estrogen.
A progesterone test helps confirm whether ovulation has occurred. The ovaries produce the hormone after an egg’s release, leading to a rise in hormone levels. This prepares your uterus for pregnancy by allowing the lining to grow thicker. Moreover, the hormone also triggers your breasts to produce milk.
Typically, this process occurs during the second half of your menstrual cycle. A doctor may use this test to determine if and when you’ll ovulate and why you’re not conceiving and monitoring a high-risk pregnancy.
How is a Progesterone Test Done?
This test can be administered at home and in a doctor’s office. You can use one of the FDA-approved PdG tests, such as Proov, that uses a urine sample at home. In contrast, at the doctor’s office, a blood sample will be drawn from a vein in one of your arms.
Anti-Müllerian Hormone Test (AMH)
AMH test is an equally vital assessment that hints at fertility during your TTC journey. The hormone is produced in the male and female reproductive tissues. However, healthcare providers primarily administer this test to women.
For women, the levels of AMH depict the chances of getting pregnant and provide more information on fertility. It is also helpful in checking for menstrual disorders. The test can also predict the onset of menopause and determine the cause of early menopause.
Furthermore, while your AMH levels may also correspond to your egg count, more than the test alone may be needed to predict fertility accurately. It is advisable to have this test done alongside other fertility tests.
How is an Anti-Müllerian Hormone Test Done?
The test is administered by a healthcare professional who draws a blood sample from your arm’s vein. The test is then analyzed. It is common to feel a slight prick or sting during the process.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (THS) Test
Abnormal thyroid levels can impact ovulation. According to statistics, up to 5% of women with abnormal thyroid levels struggle with infertility. Moreover, thyroid hormone levels play a crucial role in fetal development.
A thyroid-stimulating test helps assess the hormone level in the bloodstream. Like the FSH hormone, the pituitary gland produces the TSH, which then stimulates the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.
A THS test can help ascertain cases of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. In instances of hyperthyroidism, women may experience irregular periods, while men will likely have a low sperm count.
On the contrary, hypothyroidism reduces fertility chances and increases the possibility of a miscarriage.
How is a Thyroid-stimulating hormone (THS) Test Done?
A blood sample will be required. A doctor will draw the sample from your arm for analysis. The procedure is relatively short, taking five minutes or less. Moreover, you won’t need to make preparations for these tests.
Your healthcare provider may advise doing the test with a T3 test, T4 test, or an Anti-TPO.
By now, I’m sure you understand that fertility is a play of the woman and man’s fertility index. Gone are the days when women would be solely blamed for not conceiving. The man may have a problem with his sperm count, which is a nod of infertility.
To ascertain this, a semen analysis gives a clear picture of how many sperm are released per ejaculation, their shape, and their motion.
How is This Analysis Undertaken?
Usually, to obtain a clean sample, a man would masturbate into a clean container. The sample is then analyzed for the factors mentioned above. Since sperm count can vary, a doctor may advise providing more than one sample at specific intervals.
Which are the essential hormones in fertility testing?
The vital hormones recommended for testing when checking for fertility are: progesterone, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and estrogen (estradiol).
Where Can I Find A Reliable Test Provider?
With extensive research being poured into fertility hormone testing, plenty of companies are now emerging with a wide range of tests. Some companies you should consider include: