FSH governs the growth of the body and the changes that take place during puberty and reproduction. This article explains the relationship between FSH level and fertility. It also provides some information on the healthy levels and tests related to this hormone.
FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormone which is produced by the anterior pituitary gland. This hormone, along with other reproductive hormones (for example, LH or luteinizing hormone) is essential for the process of reproduction. It regulates the development, growth, pubertal maturation, and reproductive processes of the body. These days, more and more people are facing the problem of infertility. For them, it is necessary to evaluate FSH levels regularly. Follicle stimulating hormone in blood is one of the important factors that determines the fertility, especially of a woman.
Both men and women require this hormone at certain ranges during certain times. Follicle stimulating hormone levels are low in childhood. The normal FSH levels can be between 3 mIU/ml to 10 mIU/ml, and these are absolutely essential for the proper development of sex organs and for the production of a normal number of reproductive cells. As the name suggests, this hormone stimulates the follicles of ovaries that contain egg cells. FSH level and ovulation have a peculiar relationship. It has been observed that an acute rise in the blood levels of this hormone triggers ovulation.
In men, FSH test helps determine the reason behind inadequate production of sperms, while in children, the test helps diagnose delayed or early puberty. Thus, in all cases, levels of this hormone are linked with fertility, however, it is more significant in case of women. By measuring the levels of this hormone, the cause behind ovarian failure can be detected. Since high levels clearly indicate menopause, the test helps find out whether the symptoms experienced by a woman are of menopause or of some other disease. Moreover, increased levels of this hormone and fertility cannot go hand in hand. Elevated levels of blood FSH during reproductive years are considered abnormal.
FSH Level and Conception
If a woman has problem in conceiving, a basic ‘ovarian reserve test’ (egg supply test) must be conducted at the earliest. The amount of this hormone in her blood would be measured on the third day (Day 3) of her menstruation cycle. No production or low production of this hormone would indicate a lack of ovulation due to malfunctioning of the hypothalamus gland and this can affect conception. High levels, especially on more than one occasion, indicate that ovarian follicles are absent and the pituitary gland is attempting to get over the problem or is trying to counterbalance absent follicles in the ovaries, which is what happens naturally at menopause. Abundant FSH is an indicator of primary or premature ovarian failure, which is also known as early menopause.
FSH Test and Fertility
As mentioned above, with the help of this test, fertility can be measured. One should consult the doctor and discuss the normal values, as the values may vary slightly from lab to lab. Another important thing to keep in mind is that these numbers can fluctuate dramatically when affected by environment, stress, illness, etc. To predict a woman’s fertility, multiple testing is necessary, as the concentrations of the follicle stimulating hormones vary significantly, peaking each month. Most doctors say that the numbers below 15 mIU/ml are good because, lower it is, the better for fertility.
In case of a menstruating woman, the normal level would be between 5 and 25mIU/ml. The levels higher than 25 is one of the hallmarks of the prediction of the woman being in the peri-menopausal or premenopausal stage. In case of a menopausal woman, the level would be around 50. The relationship between these levels and menopause makes the test more significant for a woman. Let us see what happens to the levels of this hormone during the various stages of the menstrual cycle.
- Menses (approx. Day 0 to 5): Occasional release of GnRH (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone) from the hypothalamus leads to small pulses of LH and FSH from the anterior pituitary gland. Both these hormones stimulate several follicles (each containing an egg cell) to develop in the ovaries.
- Follicular Phase: Part I (approx. Day 6 to 10): LH and FSH levels can be low but steady, encouraging the development of the follicle.
- Follicular Phase: Part II (approx. Day 11 to 14): There is no change in LH and FSH levels, they remain low but steady, supporting the development of the follicle.
- Ovulation (approx. Day 15): Abundant GnRH is secreted by the hypothalamus which triggers the massive production of LH and FSH in the anterior pituitary. This is known as mid-cycle LH/FSH peak. This surge lasts only for 24 hours. Both these hormones stimulate enzymes in the follicle. The egg is released from the follicle due to the enzymatic reactions and the pressure of the antrum.
- Luteal Phase (approx. Day 16 to 28): LH and FSH levels fall back to their low levels and again steady levels can be noticed.
It is safe to conclude that this is a pretty crucial hormone for the process of conception. Fertility and infertility are related in a significant manner to the levels of this hormone. To avoid inadequate production or overproduction of FSH and other hormones, it is necessary to lead a stress free life. Balanced diet and regular exercises help maintain hormonal balance. Rather than relying on only the test, it is better to undergo some other tests, so as to understand the entire picture. Various tests help to know about the body’s endocrine system and hormonal levels better.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.