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Houston Fertility Journal

How Do Hormone Levels Impact Infertility?

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 1, 2017 1:47:35 PM / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

Center of Reproductive Medicine

How Do Hormone Levels Impact Infertility Blog IMG.pngWhen you’re trying to conceive a child, there are few possibilities you’re unwilling to explore to make your dream come true. The road to overcome infertility issues can be a long and difficult one, and as such, we’ll bet you’re always in search of another way to look at things, in the hopes of finally identifying a viable solution.

One such opportunity for answers may lie in the role hormone levels play in it all. After all, given their natural proximity in bodily function, one might assume that the connection is strong enough to be exploited for the purposes of conception. However, the inner workings of the female reproductive system are exceedingly complex. So let’s take a closer look at the link between hormone levels and infertility.

The Role of Hormones

As you might imagine, reproductive hormones are integral to getting pregnant. In particular, six hormones are responsible for regulating the reproductive system, including the following:

  • GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone), released first by the hypothalamus
  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone), released next by the pituitary gland
  • Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, released by the ovaries

The ovulation process requires all of the above to run smoothly on both the male and female side of things in order to achieve fertilization. However, estrogen is perhaps the final key in making reproduction possible, since it is secreted by the ovaries themselves. Once the first few hormones are produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, respectively, then estrogen can enter the uterus and kickstart the thickening of the uterine wall to prepare for fertilization.

The fertile window consists of the five days before ovulation and ends the day it occurs, and during this time, the body is most primed for pregnancy, rich as it is with the hormones necessary to execute conception. If fertilization takes place, the egg moves from the Fallopian tube for implantation in the uterus and the subsequent 9-month incubation. If not, estrogen and progesterone levels trickle down, with menstruation occurring as normal.

Correlation in Action

Given the invaluable role hormones play in a successful fertilization, perhaps it’s not much of a surprise to realize that research has shown a distinct connection between estrogen levels and fertility. However, it may not be nearly as straightforward as you might think. In fact, less than a few nanograms -- a unit of measurement that represents one-billionth of a gram -- may decide whether pregnancy happens at all, even when it comes to in vitro fertilization (IVF), and could explain why so many healthy embryos are never properly implanted at all.

One study suggested that slight variations in estrogen levels could dramatically shorten the fertility window, leading to implantation failure. If even a tiny bit too much estrogen is present, it might wreak havoc on the opportunity for IVF to succeed, and making matters worse, most women who are candidates for IVF already have elevated estrogen levels due to fertility medication. Interestingly, a boost in progesterone had no effect on fertility.

As if women struggling with infertility didn’t have enough obstacles to overcome, it appears that the inner workings of the female reproductive system are more complex than we ever knew. So patients should be sure they keep a watchful eye on estrogen levels going forward.

The Journey Continues

Armed with the knowledge above, you may now be in a better position to finally achieve conception, bringing you that much closer to your own little bundle of joy. As time goes on, we’re learning more and more about how we can circumvent lingering infertility issues, and the right fertility doctor will be able to help you investigate whether or not your own hormone levels are standing in the way of your progress.

If that winds up being the case, there is no need to worry, as modern advances have made it easier than ever to course-correct your body’s hormonal status in service of creating a brand-new addition to your family. But every moment counts. So don’t delay looking into your own struggle with infertility.

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Topics: Health, Reproductive Specialist

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