Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH): What Is It?

One of the hormones the body releases over the course of the menstrual cycle is Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone exists in both male and female bodies, where it has a range of effects for reproductive function. But what if your FSH levels are too high, or too low? This could have implications for your fertility chances. Let’s take a look at the what you need to know about this important hormone.

What does Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) do?

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone FSH

Why, it stimulates follicles, of course! Seriously though, FSH plays an important role in the ovarian cycle, and is a part of what allows you to become pregnant. When FSH acts on the ovaries, it causes the ovarian follicles (a bundle of cells containing the egg) to grow and develop; hence the name. When the ovarian follicle is fully developed, the fertile egg is released in ovulation. This happens when the pituitary gland releases a burst of luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation and causes the corpus luteum to develop.

What if my Follicle-Stimulating Hormone levels are too low?

Your doctor can measure FSH levels with a blood test. If your FSH levels are outside the normal range, your doctor may want to talk to you about a number of conditions that affect your fertility.

Low FSH levels could mean…

  • Hypothalamus dysfunction
  • Hyperprolactinemia (excess amounts of the breastfeeding hormone prolactin in the blood stream)
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) due to low body weight

Very low FSH levels could mean…

  • Pituitary gland dysfunction
  • Sheehan’s syndrome (a condition that occurs when a woman loses a lot of blood)
  • Pituitary gland tumor
  • Gonadotropin hormone deficiency
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) due to weight loss

Does a high FSH level mean I’m infertile?

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Given the role FSH plays in maturing ovarian follicles for ovulation, you might think high levels would be a good thing if you’re trying to get pregnant. Not so. Elevated FSH levels can spell trouble if you’re trying to get pregnant. When ovarian function declines, the body releases more FSH to mature the egg follicles. In short, high FSH can be a sign of lowered fertility. This is one of the signs of menopause, though elevated FSH levels can be due to a number of factors.

High FSH levels could mean…

  • Ovulation dysfunction
  • Early menopause
  • Age-related decline in ovarian reserve

Can I reduce my Follicle-Stimulating Hormone levels?

If your FSH levels are elevated, your doctor may be able to prescribe medications to bring it back down into a normal range and improve your ovarian function. This isn’t the kind of thing that clears up on its own, so speak to your doctor about the best treatment options for FSH.

Keeping your Follicle-Stimulating Hormone levels on track

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It is possible to adjust your FSH levels and improve your ovarian function with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes. Speak to your doctor about your best options for treatment and hormone-healthy habits!