We are all aware of how significant the spike in luteinizing hormone (LH) is for ovulation when it comes to getting pregnant.
However, there’s another important hormone at work far before your LH surge during the follicular phase. This hormone, sometimes referred to as FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), ensures that an egg is correctly produced and prepared for release through ovulation.
FSH, also known as the follicle-stimulating hormone, is a crucial component of the reproductive system. It is in charge of ovarian follicle growth. Follicles aid in the maintenance of women’s menstrual cycles by producing estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. In men, FSH plays a crucial role in both gonad development and the production of sperm.
Continue reading as We’ll go over all you need to know about FSH, including what it does, what it means, normal FSH levels in women, and how to test your body’s FSH levels. In addition, we’ll answer some of your most often inquiries concerning this unique hormone!
FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone): What is it?
The pituitary gland produces two gonadotropic hormones, FSH being one of them. Luteinizing hormone (LH) is the other gonadotrophic hormone, and these two hormones cooperate to promote reproduction.
The function of FSH is to encourage the formation of early ovarian follicles (which will eventually release an egg during ovulation) and increase estrogen production throughout the follicular phase, all of which contribute to the regulation of the menstrual cycle.
What makes FSH crucial?
FSH is significant for two causes. First of all, early ovarian follicle development would not be possible without FSH. This is important because the eggs that are eventually released during ovulation are developed in these follicles.
FSH’s contribution to boosting estrogen production is the second factor that makes it so crucial. The uterine lining becomes thicker due to this rise in estrogen, which supports the implantation process.
FSH and Conception
The body stops all ovulation-related processes during pregnancy, and FSH does not play a significant part in this process. In stark contrast to the 1.4-9.9 mIU/mL threshold that is normally attained during the follicular phase in non-pregnant women, FSH levels in the blood tend to remain below 0.1 mIU/mL throughout pregnancy.
How Important Is the FSH Test for Fertility?
The FSH test is done to calculate how much FSH is there in your blood. To determine the underlying cause of problems affecting the reproductive system, your doctor will conduct an FSH blood test.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is a topic that comes up frequently during fertility testing, and people may question what a typical FSH level is to conceive. Your doctor will likely request blood work to examine your FSH levels as part of a standard fertility examination.
This straightforward blood test, sometimes known as the “day 3 FSH test,” determines how much FSH is present in your circulation. Although everyone’s definition of normal varies, the typical healthy range is between 4.7 and 21.5 mIU/mL. While there are other uses for FSH testing as well, historically, it has been used to assess ovarian reserves. The quantity and caliber of eggs still present in the ovaries are known as ovarian reserves. A low ovarian reserve may be indicated by high FSH levels, which might make getting pregnant more challenging. Infertility treatments might not be as successful as those for accelerating ovulation or follicle development.
Nevertheless, calculating FSH levels is not the most accurate method of evaluating ovarian reserves. FSH testing has a significant flaw in that obtaining a normal value does not guarantee that your ovarian reserves are healthy. Even if your FSH levels are normal, you may still experience age-related infertility. Additionally, you can still experience bad outcomes from fertility treatment. Find out more about your fertility and what FSH levels can and cannot tell you.
What the body does with FSH
It helps to understand how the hormone functions in the body to comprehend FSH-level testing. Its function is to signal your ovaries to start producing oocytes or premature eggs. Each oocyte is housed in a fluid sac called a follicle. The procedure that will, ideally, result in ovulation starts with the growth and development of the oocytes.
Estrogen and FSH operate together in a feedback loop. The eggs in your ovaries respond by releasing estrogen when FSH instructs them to expand. More estrogen is released as the follicles (or eggs) enlarge. Your reproductive system is stimulated by the greater estrogen levels to delay the release of FSH.
In other words, as the follicles grow larger and the eggs in the ovary develop, FSH levels normally decrease. FSH levels won’t fall if the eggs don’t begin to develop and release estrogen. In reality, the body will continuously generate more FSH to promote egg growth.
High Levels of FSH
If FSH levels in women are excessively high, the body likely needs more FSH to promote ovulation and egg development. This may indicate that the eggs in the ovaries are of inferior quality and low in quantity. This is a typical aspect of aging and affects women more frequently after the age of 38. However, elevated FSH levels can occur in even young persons. For instance, if a person in their 20s has primary ovarian insufficiency, their FSH levels may be elevated (premature ovarian failure).
In one study, women with elevated FSH levels underwent IVF. The study’s findings revealed that while some women responded favorably to treatment, others did not. Pregnancy rates among those who responded were generally favorable. According to the researchers, fertility medications are the best method to determine if they will be effective. Who will succeed and who won’t is impossible to predict solely based on FSH levels.
Low Levels of FSH
Additionally, FSH levels in women may be excessively low. This frequently occurs along with low luteinizing hormone (LH) levels and could point to an issue with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus, two regions of the brain that are crucial to ovulation.
You can determine whether you have underlying reproductive problems that affect your fertility by looking at your FSH levels.
Why Maintaining Normal FSH Levels Is Important
High FSH levels may indicate poor ovarian reserves. Poor ovarian reserves, put simply, entail a deficiency in both the quantity and quality of eggs.
FSH levels are also used to assess the potential efficacy of injectable fertility medications or in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. High doses of fertility medications are less likely to be effective in women with high FSH levels or inadequate ovarian reserves. Some doctors would advise against IVF because the cycle is more likely to be stopped or fail when FSH levels are high.
Why? Eggs do not mature with normal levels of FSH when FSH levels are unusually high. By raising FSH, the body will try to resolve the issue. The hormone FSH is given to stimulate your ovaries during IVF or while using injectable reproductive medications.
It’s doubtful that injectable FSH will work if your ovaries aren’t responding to your natural FSH. Injected FSH will cause a lady with healthy ovarian reserves to have significant egg development in her ovaries. The ovaries won’t react as well in a lady with low ovarian reserves.
However, high FSH levels do not automatically rule out using your eggs for conception. Perhaps an alternative approach has to be tried by your doctor. A second opinion should be sought before proceeding if a doctor informs you that IVF cannot be performed without the use of an egg donor. An approach from a different physician might be more suitable for your particular needs and scenario.
High FSH levels don’t guarantee you won’t get pregnant, but they suggest that you might find it more difficult. They are merely one of several considerations.
Why Day 3 FSH Testing Is Conducted
The right time must be chosen for FSH testing. The typical range varies day by day since FSH levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. You must get the blood test on day 3 of your menstrual cycle to perform basic fertility testing and assess your ovarian reserves (day 1 is the day your period begins).
But most medical professionals agree that the test can be performed on any day between Days 2 and 4. It is also possible to examine FSH levels at different points in the menstrual cycle, but this is less usual because the results might not be as reliable.
The need that FSH testing must be performed at a specific time is one reason why it is thought to be less helpful than other ovarian reserve testing techniques. FSH levels can change from one period to the next and over the course of the menstrual cycle. You can receive a normal test result in one month and an abnormal result in the following.
How to Perform an FSH Blood Test
Like other blood tests, the FSH blood test is routine. When to have the test done will be determined by your doctor. A nurse will take blood from a vein in your arm for the test. Although the test is usually painless and straightforward, you might feel a tiny pinch.
FSH tests for use at home are also offered for purchase, but it’s important to note that they’re less trustworthy. These function similarly to pregnancy tests in that you use urine to check your hormone levels. Even if a fertility specialist had said your levels were greater than normal, the test might still indicate that they are “normal” and notify you if your levels are too high.
What dangers do FSH tests pose?
The risk of getting your FSH levels checked is quite low.
The only risk associated with at-home testing is getting false results from using the test kit incorrectly. For this reason, it’s crucial to always adhere to the instructions carefully. If you have any problems or are uneasy with your results, contact your doctor immediately. The only risk associated with blood testing in your doctor’s office is the customary mild discomfort and bruises that are common during a blood serum test.
What FSH Levels Are Normal?
According to a study on day 3 FSH levels and IVF outcomes, women who had day 3 FSH levels lower than 15 mIU/ml had a higher likelihood of successfully conceiving through IVF than those who had FSH levels between 15 mIU/ml and 24.9 mIU/ml. Pregnancy rates per attempt were substantially lower for women with day 3 FSH levels over 25 mIU/ml.
Sometimes day 3 estradiol levels are excessively high when FSH levels are normal. You may still have weak ovarian reserves if your estradiol levels are high, but your FSH levels are normal.
Because estradiol and FSH interact, high amounts of estradiol can reduce FSH. The body reduces FSH in reaction to elevated estrogen levels. Although your FSH levels will naturally decrease if your estrogen levels are high, this does not necessarily suggest that your ovaries are responding to the FSH.
As a normal value at one clinic may be viewed as unusually high in another, a normal range will differ between labs. Consult your physician for a precise interpretation. To complete the picture, a comparison between your LH and estrogen levels—more particularly, estradiol, or E2—is necessary.
Women occasionally request testing of their FSH levels to determine if they should begin attempting to have a baby right away or if they have more time. If the test results are normal, you might believe that age-related infertility is not a concern.
Sadly, that isn’t the case. According to one study, women can have normal FSH levels well after the age at which they would start having trouble getting pregnant. Normal FSH levels aren’t always a hint that you can wait a few more years before trying to conceive, even though high FSH levels can be a warning sign.
How is FSH treated?
FSH can be injected and used to treat some infertility disorders. This is referred to as an FSH therapy and is frequently given along with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). The ultimate goal of this therapy is to promote ovarian follicle development and ovulation to assist the patient in getting pregnant. This procedure could be a component of in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
When ought one to undergo an FSH test?
An FSH test is frequently advised by doctors to be taken on day 3 of the menstrual cycle (day 1 being the first day of your period). This is because FSH levels fluctuate throughout the cycle, making it essential to determine your “baseline” FSH levels as soon as possible.
Can stress impact the levels of FSH?
Yes. Your total hormone levels, including FSH particularly, can be impacted by stress. In fact, according to one study, stress is linked to FSH levels that are greater than usual. Keep in mind that persistent stress can have a detrimental impact on your menstrual cycle, capacity to become pregnant, and general health.
How can I naturally raise my FSH levels?
There are a few lifestyle adjustments you may make in addition to talking with your doctor about possible treatments for boosting your FSH levels. For instance, consuming less soy may naturally boost FSH levels. One study that revealed that eating too much soy protein may result in low FSH levels supports this.
To help balance FSH and your hormones generally, you can also:
- Maintain a nutritious diet full of protein, good fats, and fiber
- Regular exercise
- At least 7 hours of sleep per night, and
- Low stress is recommended.
Do I need to know anything else about an FSH-level test?
FSH levels in urine can be measured using an at-home test. Women who want to determine whether certain symptoms, such as irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes, may be caused by menopause or perimenopause can utilize the kit. The test might reveal whether you have elevated FSH levels, a perimenopausal or menopausal indication. But neither ailment is diagnosed by it. You should discuss the findings of the test with your doctor after taking it.
Your FSH levels can’t tell your doctor much if they’re viewed separately. FSH levels must therefore be considered along with estrogen and LH levels. A normal FSH level does not guarantee a successful course of therapy, even while high FSH levels may imply lesser chances of success. FSH testing is not the ideal technique for assessing ovarian reserves. However, your doctor can assist you in deciding what kind of tests could be suitable for your circumstance.