7 minute read
Seven hormones for female reproductive health—what they are and why they matter
Published December 5, 2023
Hormones are the chemical messengers that connect your body's communication network, allowing your organs and systems to work together in harmony. Each plays a role in different bodily functions while silently shaping your overall health. When it comes to reproductive health, 7 hormones stand out as essential:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone
- Luteinizing hormone
- Anti-mullerian hormone
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone
These hormones orchestrate everything from your menstrual cycle to your overall well-being. But hormones can be tricky at times. Too high or too low, and they can disrupt menstrual cycles and fertility. For the best chance of pregnancy, we’re aiming for levels that are Goldilocks-approved: just right.
1. Follicle-stimulating hormone
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is a hormone that plays a vital role in the female reproductive system. It’s produced by your pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of your brain, just behind the bridge of your nose.
FSH and fertility
FSH is crucial in ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg). It earned its name because of its stimulating effect on ovarian follicles. Ovarian follicles are small fluid-filled sacs in your ovaries that hold eggs. FSH also helps regulate your menstrual cycle. But the amount of FSH in your body isn’t always the same. It goes up and down during your menstrual cycle, reaching the highest level just before ovulation, when an egg is released. Too much or too little FSH can cause challenges with getting pregnant (infertility) or issues with your periods.
2. Luteinizing hormone
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland that’s critical in sexual reproduction. LH works closely with FSH to regulate your menstrual cycle and ovulation.
LH and fertility
LH helps to get things moving by signaling your ovaries to start the processes needed for ovulation and pregnancy. LH works with FSH to stimulate the growth of ovarian follicles, which hold immature eggs. As the follicles mature, LH levels rise. When LH levels surge, ovulation happens, and the ovary releases the mature egg.
LH levels fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle, with the highest levels in the days leading up to ovulation. LH also helps regulate the production of progesterone (a hormone essential for maintaining pregnancy). Too much or too little LH can cause infertility or irregular or missed periods.
Estrogen is one of the most important hormones in your body. Your ovaries produce most of your estrogen, but your adrenal glands (located at the top of each kidney) and fat tissue also produce smaller amounts.
Estrogen and fertility
Estradiol is the main (and most potent) form of estrogen during your reproductive years. It’s first produced when puberty begins, and its levels fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle.
Estradiol works with FSH, LH, and progesterone to regulate your menstrual cycle. Estradiol also helps to mature eggs for ovulation and thicken the uterine lining to prepare it for pregnancy. Too much or too little estradiol can cause heavier, lighter, or missed periods or worsen health conditions that could affect fertility.
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4. Anti-Mullerian Hormone
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (pronounced an-tee-muh-leh-ree-uhn hormone), or AMH for short, is a hormone produced by cells in your ovarian follicles. AMH levels provide an indication of the follicles a woman has in her ovaries. These follicles contain eggs, so AMH levels also reflect how many eggs a woman has.
AMH and fertility
A woman’s AMH levels tend to be highest during her reproductive years and slowly decline with age. Measuring AMH levels can give a snapshot of a woman’s egg supply, also known as her ovarian reserve. Lower AMH levels show that a woman has fewer follicles in her ovaries, which means she has fewer eggs left. Women with higher AMH levels tend to have more follicles. This can mean they have more eggs available for ovulation, possibly increasing their chances of getting pregnant. But even though AMH is linked to a woman’s egg count, it doesn’t predict her fertility.
Prepare for now—or the future
The Ovarian Reserve Assessment Marker AMH Test measures your ovulatory egg supply and provides information about what that means for your personal pregnancy journey.
Progesterone is a hormone that not only supports menstruation but also the early stages of pregnancy. Progesterone is mostly made in the ovaries, but the adrenal glands and placenta (during pregnancy) also produce it.
Progesterone and fertility
Each month, progesterone prepares your uterus for pregnancy. It’s responsible for thickening the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg can attach and grow. If conception occurs, progesterone levels remain high to support the pregnancy. If conception doesn’t occur, progesterone levels drop, and the lining of the uterus sheds during menstruation.
You can measure your progesterone levels with a one-time blood test. This test is usually done on day 21 of a 28-day cycle. The test will show how much progesterone you had at the time of the test and if you ovulated.
But progesterone levels need to stay high during the implantation window, which allows for the best possible chance of pregnancy. This window usually lasts from days 21 to 24 in a 28-day cycle. For a truly successful ovulation, an egg needs to be released, and progesterone levels should remain high during the implantation window.
You can confirm successful ovulation with a PdG test, like Proov Confirm. PdG is a substance (metabolite) in your urine that comes from progesterone. This test allows for noninvasive tracking over several days. It can provide a better picture of your progesterone levels over time and your chances of getting pregnant.
Too much progesterone can cause heavy periods, bloating, mood changes, or weight gain. Too little progesterone can cause irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty getting pregnant, and early pregnancy loss. It can also cause side effects similar to menopause, like hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, or missed periods.
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Wondering if you ovulated? The Progesterone Test measures the amount of progesterone in your blood. This test is done on day 21 of a 28-day cycle, when progesterone levels peak if ovulation has taken place.
Testosterone is often thought of as only a male sex hormone, but females have (and need) testosterone too, just in much smaller amounts. Testosterone is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands.
Testosterone and fertility
Testosterone is important for female health, including muscle health, bone density, energy, mood, fertility, and libido (sex drive). Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, but it remains important throughout life. Too little testosterone can cause fatigue (feeling tired), weakness, irregular menstrual cycles, and fertility issues.
Too much testosterone can cause excessive hair growth, acne, irregular periods, and infertility. It can also be related to PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It can cause symptoms like irregular periods, excessive male hormone levels, and cysts on the ovaries.
Better understand the cause of your irregular periods
The Menstrual Irregularities Test Panel measures 7 key hormones:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone
- Total testosterone
This panel can help you and your doctor determine if additional testing is needed to identify PCOS or other reproductive hormone issues that could be the cause of your symptoms and irregular periods.
7. Thyroid-stimulating hormone
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that tells the thyroid gland to make and release its own hormones (T3 and T4). This process is vital for many bodily functions, including heart rate, body temperature, breathing, reproduction, and menstruation.
TSH and fertility
TSH is essential for regulating the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Too much or too little TSH can disrupt the menstrual cycle, cause estrogen and progesterone imbalances, and lead to ovulation problems and difficulty getting pregnant.
The Thyroid TSH Function Test measures TSH to evaluate thyroid health—which is critical to overall wellness. If your test results are positive or abnormal, treatment options may be available.
Thinking of or planning for pregnancy?
The Pre-Pregnancy Panel includes 4 tests to provide information about various health measures that could impact your overall health or the health of your baby:
- Complete blood count
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Folic acid
- Thyroid stimulating hormone
Buy your panel today and learn more about how you can prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
No doctor visit is required to buy your own lab test at questhealth.com. PWNHealth and its affiliates review your purchase to ensure it is medically appropriate before submitting the test order for processing. PWNHealth also reviews your test results and will contact you directly if they require prompt attention. Included in each purchase is the option to discuss your test results with an independent physician; however, you are also encouraged to speak with your primary healthcare provider.
- Endocrine Society. Reproductive Hormones. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/reproductive-hormones.
- Endocrine Society. The Essential Guide to Your Hormones. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/pdf-library/essential-guide-to-hormones.
- Medline Plus. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Levels Test. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/follicle-stimulating-hormone-fsh-levels-test/.
- Cleveland Clinic. Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). Accessed November 17, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24638-follicle-stimulating-hormone-fsh.
- Cleveland Clinic. Luteinizing Hormone. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22255-luteinizing-hormone.
- Medline Plus. Estradiol Blood Test. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003711.htm.
- Endocrine Society. What Does Estrogen Do? Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.endocrine.org/-/media/endocrine/files/patient-engagement/infographics/what_does_estrogen_do.pdf.
- Medline Plus. Anti-Mullerian Hormone Test. Accessed November 17, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/anti-mullerian-hormone-test/.
- Everyday Health. What Is Progesterone? Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.everydayhealth.com/progesterone/guide/.
- Medical News Today. What Happens When a Woman Has Low Testosterone? Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322663.
- Medical News Today. What Causes High Testosterone in Women? Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321292.
- Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism and Infertility: Any Connection? Accessed November 17, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/expert-answers/hypothyroidism-and-infertility/faq-20058311.