The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is one of the most important hormones in the reproduction of man. This hormone is found in humans and other animals. Secreted by the pituitary gland FSH does the following:
• Initiates the follicular growth
• Prepares the egg for fertilization
• Stimulates the maturation of semi-nefarious tubules.
• Enhances the production of androgen –binding proteins
• Critical in initiating spermatogenesis.
For optimum activity of the reproductive organs, the FSH levels have to of a certain level. If it is too high or too low there bound to be some problems.
High FSH levels
When the level of FSH is high, it means that a woman might have a lower number of eggs. This will translate to the woman having difficulty
• Premature menopause is likely to be triggered
• Poor ovarian reserve is likely
When the FSH levels are low
The following disorders are likely to be observed
• Kallmann syndrome
• Polycystic Ovarian syndrome
• Hypothalamic suppression
What causes FSH level to vary?
FSH levels are never constant. There levels are majorly affected by the following factors: the quality and number of eggs a woman has, stress, menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, some medication and other hormones such as progesterone and estrogen levels.
FSH levels test
In cases, where conception is difficult to achieves as part of diagnostic measures the FSH test is usually done. This test is usually done on the 3rd day of the menstrual cycle. This test is a very simple procedure and it aims at measuring the amount of FSH in the bloodstream or the urine.
Why the test is recommended to be done on the third day
When the test is done on the 3rd day of ovulation, it will give a clear indication as to whether a woman has a normal ovarian reserve. This is because FSH levels are never constant and they keep on rising and falling during the monthly cycle.
Why this test is essential
When the level of FSH is high it is an indicator of a poor ovarian reserve this simply means that the quantity and the quality of the eggs are below standard. IF on the, other hand, the result shows that the FSH levels are low, it indicates that you will have difficulty in achieving pregnancy, but it doesn’t mean that you will never become pregnant.
Interpretation of FSH test results
It is important to stress that lab values may vary, so it is recommended that you seek the advice of a medical doctor as individual variations bring about different results, the following are the general results that are expected when the test is done.
Practical problems that with the FSH test
• Usually the results are affected by laboratory procedures. The cut off value used to say whether the egg quantity is good or poor is usually laboratory dependent.
• Whereas, high baselines FSH tend to indicate low egg quantity, a normal result does not always mean that the egg is of good. There are a high number of women with normal FSH level but have reduced egg supply. This discrepancy is usually observed in women in their 40s.
• Possible laboratory errors
It is recommended that a follow up test be done to determine the level of FSH as a single test may not always give satisfactory results.
Relationship between FSH levels and Menopause
During menopause, ovulation stops. With the end of ovulation, the FSH levels never drops, they are constantly high. The symptoms and the other characteristics of menopause are observed as a result of lack of estrogen. Consequently, the pituitary gland is made to release more FSH in an effort to stimulate the ovaries into producing more estrogen. However, this is a futile attempt, since when a woman reaches menopause, estrogen fails to get ovarian follicles to develop. The FSH level remains high, and this indicates that the woman is approaching menopause or Menopause has began.
The subject of FSH levels is of great concern to many women who are undergoing evaluation to determine their conception difficulties. It is necessary to understand as much as possible the entire hormonal function, the body endocrine system and the responses that lead to fertility and infertility rather than relying on the numerical results from test as individual variation vary and generalization cannot paint a clear picture in understanding how FSH levels is related to fertility.