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Hormones 101: FSH in fertility testing

FSH in fertility testing – we bring you the facts. To help you sift through misinformation online, we’re writing a ‘Hormones 101’ series, explaining the hormones included on our test panel.

We empower women to take charge of their reproductive health. We believe in a holistic approach to fertility, including your physical and emotional health.

What is follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)?

The pituitary gland makes follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FHS helps produce eggs in women and sperm in men. FSH facilitates the growth of follicles and eggs in your ovaries, and helps these follicles produce estrogen. In your reproductive system, FSH works together with Luteinizing Hormone (LH). Sometimes, these hormones are used in IVF treatment to encourage multiple eggs to develop in one cycle.

Why is FSH in fertility tests?

There’s a lot of variation in fertility tests on the market. Some clinics or the NHS will only measure one of either FSH or anti-müllerian hormone (AMH). We include both on our hormone panel.

FSH in fertility tests is used to get an indication of your ovarian reserve (your egg count). FSH and AMH indicate the amount of eggs you have left, and a higher number is better if you’re trying to conceive. However, a low ovarian reserve doesn’t imply you can’t get pregnant naturally. As long as you’re ovulating, you can conceive naturally.

AMH is sometimes thought a better indicator of ovarian reserve and (potentially) birth outcomes. This is because AMH levels tend to be stable throughout your cycle, whereas FSH varies throughout. This is one of the reasons we ask you to get tested on Day 3 of your cycle, so we can get a ‘baseline’ of FSH levels.

In short, though some clinics will test for either FSH or AMH, we test for both. We look at these hormones in context of each other, and other hormones on the panel. This lets us tune in to important flags, including the potential for PCOS. It can also help us understand your ovarian reserve and how you might respond to IVF treatment. This is important information when you’re trying to conceive.

What if my FSH levels aren’t normal?

We send you a detailed report with your results, when you complete a test with Adia. After getting your results, you can discuss these with an expert immediately. If you’re not exactly within the reference range, please don’t worry –  talk to our fertility experts. You can also share results with your GP.

We want to empower you with knowledge and data about your body, and hormone health. Knowing where you stand allows you to take steps to improve, whether through nutrition, stress management or physical treatment.

An important thing to bear in mind is that FSH levels naturally rise as you age. Your ‘normal’ level is based on the reference range for women your age. Higher levels of FSH in fertility test results can help indicate premature ovarian failure, PCOS and your expected menopausal age. Higher FSH can also mean your ovaries are ‘working harder’ to make eggs. Though this can imply a reduced quantity or quality of eggs, it does not always mean you can’t conceive naturally.

Lower FSH could imply your ovaries aren’t making enough eggs. Low FSH can also tune us into other issues with pituitary gland function. As always, it’s important to remember FSH levels need to be looked at in context of the other hormones on the panel.

I hope this explains why we have included FSH in our hormone panel. We hope to explain the role FSH plays in your fertility journey. Please ask our fertility team any questions you have about FSH, or hormones in general. Join Adia to talk an expert.

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Read other blogs in our ‘Hormones 101’ series: