Are you TTC, planning ahead, or just curious about your reproductive health? Let's break down what hormones play a role in fertility and how you can test your own hormone levels at home. 

 

By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Hormone levels can tell you a lot about your fertility, including how many eggs you likely have, if you’re nearing or past menopause, and potential pregnancy outcomes. Hormone imbalances may even explain symptoms such as hair loss, fatigue, irregular periods, weight gain, and more. If you’re trying to conceive (TTC), understanding your hormone levels can help guide you, your partner, and your provider to making personalized decisions during your fertility journey. 

What hormones play a role in a woman’s ability to have normal menstrual cycles and ovulation?

The menstrual cycle is mostly regulated by four key hormones: luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. The rise and fall of these hormones throughout the menstrual cycle mark the beginning and ending of different phases and trigger events like ovulation and menstruation. 

It is important to note that many other hormones have a role in female reproductive health, and multiple hormones are linked. 

Estradiol

Estradiol is the predominant and most biologically active estrogen. It’s created mainly by the ovary; however, other organs and tissues, such as the brain, fat tissue, and bone, are thought to produce it as well. Estradiol is one of the main hormones responsible for ovulation and regular function of the breasts, vagina, and uterus. Normal levels for premenopausal women range from 30 to 400 pg/mL. It’s common to see estradiol levels drop significantly after menopause, with normal levels ranging from 0 to 30 pg/mL. 

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

LH is the other key hormone responsible for ovulation and is made by the pituitary gland. Seeing normal hormone levels for LH is a good sign that there aren’t any major imbalances that will interfere with ovary function. LH levels vary significantly throughout the menstrual cycle, but typically levels for premenopausal women range from 1.1 to 17.2 IU/L. Postmenopausal women typically see a range of 19.3 to 100 IU/L. 

Abnormal LH levels may be an indicator of menopause, PCOS, malnutrition, and more. 

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

FSH is another key hormone made by the pituitary gland that is necessary for sperm development, egg growth, and child development. The female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone come from ovarian follicles, which grow and mature because of healthy FSH levels. A normal FSH level ranges from 1.4 to 10 IU/mL and is a good indicator that a woman has the typical number of eggs for her age. 

Although FSH tests are fairly reliable, they should not be interpreted in the absence of estradiol levels since estradiol levels may falsely suppress FSH levels.  

Abnormal FSH levels may be a sign of diminished ovarian reserve, ovarian failure, or other fertility problems. 

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Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

The thyroid is a vital piece of the fertility puzzle, as it’s responsible for creating and controlling hormones. TSH is responsible for controlling thyroid hormone production and is considered the most sensitive marker for screening for thyroid diseases and conditions. Normal TSH levels range from 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L. Abnormal levels could point to conditions such as hyperthyroidism, which may negatively impact ovulation and pregnancy. 

Total Testosterone

Perhaps an overlooked hormone when it comes to female fertility, total testosterone levels are a great indicator of fertility in men and women. Total testosterone refers to testosterone that binds to proteins in the blood, which helps many organs and body processes in women and men. A normal level of total testosterone for women ranges from 15 to 70 ng/dL. Abnormal levels could be an indicator of PCOS and may be marked by low sex drive, fertility problems, irregular periods, and more. 

At-home tests for women’s fertility

If you’re curious about your own hormone levels, there are accurate and easy at-home tests you can use to test your blood. Find out if your hormones are balanced and able to support normal ovarian function needed for pregnancy.

Everlywell’s at-home testing kit tests for five key hormones: estradiol, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and total testosterone. It’s a simple blood test that’s physician-reviewed and provides results within days. 

Why an at-home test is a good option

Why take an at-home test when you could go to the doctor, right? The truth is, your doctor is likely sending your blood samples to an external lab to be tested and then going over the numerical results with you. With at-home testing, you can take your own sample (a simple finger-prick), ship your sample to a testing center, and receive results that are digital, easy to read, and personalized to you. At-home testing takes out the middleman, a likely co-pay, and the need to miss work to make it to the doctor’s office (that being said, we highly recommend sharing your test results on your next doctor’s visit). Once your doctor reviews your results, the two of you can better devise a treatment plan.

Take-aways

  • Symptoms such as weight fluctuations, night sweats, skin problems, and hair loss may be explained by hormonal imbalances.
  • Hormone levels may give insight on your egg count, ovulation cycle, and more.
  • While four key hormones are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle, many more are related to and responsible for female fertility.

At-home tests can provide results in a few days and give you personalized results so you have a clear understanding of what your hormone levels mean.

 

Featured Image by Laura James