Thyroid Hormones 101 – What does a high result mean?
The thyroid is a small gland in your neck, but don’t be fooled by its size. It plays a vital role in the body and keeping it healthy. By producing important hormones, it can affect your heart rate, metabolism (how well and fast your body processes what you eat and drink) and even fertility. Sometimes the thyroid gland makes too much of these hormones, which can cause a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism. Check your fertility What are thyroid hormones? But before we get into the details, if you are wondering what thyroid hormones even are, then you can have a quick recap here. The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, located in the brain. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce. The thyroid gland produces 2 main hormones that can impact fertility – Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is the primary form of thyroid hormone circulating in the blood, to bring about its effects, T4 has to be converted to T3. When T4 and T3 levels are low in the blood, the brain produces TRH and TSH, which stimulates the thyroid to make more T4 and T3. When T4 and T3 levels are too high in the blood, the brain produces less TRH and TSH, which reduces the amount of T4 and T3 produced by the thyroid. Most thyroid hormones in the blood are bound by the protein Thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) which is responsible for binding and transporting thyroid hormones to the necessary tissues. When the thyroid hormones are bound to TBG, they are inactive. Free thyroxine (FT4) and free triiodothyronine (FT3) are the unbound, free and active forms of thyroid hormones that can enter tissues and bring about an effect in the body. So what does hyperthyroidism mean? If TSH levels are low, and levels of T4 (and sometimes T3) are high in the blood, this could indicate that the thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone, i.e. it is overactive. This condition is called primary hyperthyroidism. As the thyroid gland is producing very high levels of hormones, the pituitary gland tries to crank down the amount of TSH it produces. Early or mild hyperthyroidism which is called subclinical hyperthyroidism may present as low TSH and normal thyroid hormone levels in the blood. What are the symtoms of hyperthyroidism? In cases where there is a hormonal imbalance due to hyperthyroidism, it may result in the following symptoms: Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — more than 100 beats a minute Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) Feeling of having a pounding heart (palpitations) Increased blood pressure Muscle weakness Twitching or trembling Difficulty sleeping and insomnia Persistent tiredness and weakness Changes in mood, especially nervousness, irritability restlessness, anxiety and depression Irregular menstrual cycles, decreased menstrual flow (hypomenorrhea) and missed periods (amenorrhea), which may cause fertility issues Frequent bowel movements or diarrhoea Heat intolerance and excessive sweating Increased appetite Unintentional weight loss, even if food intake is the same or increases Hair thinning or hair loss Protruding eyes (exophthalmos) If you are experiencing any symptoms of these symtoms and want to understand your hormone health, we’re here to get you the answers you deserve. Hertility at-home hormone and fertility testing kits help give you insight into your TSH, FT4 and FT3 levels along with other hormones that can impact your fertility. But what could be causing your thyroid levels to increase? Hyperthyroidism may be caused by underlying health conditions Having a family history of thyroid disease increases your risk of developing a thyroid disorder. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder and is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is a genetic condition and can be passed from one generation to the other. In Graves disease, the attack by the immune system makes the thyroid gland grown work harder and make more thyroid hormones. Did you know? An autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system produces antibodies that attack someone’s tissues. Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition that affects the digestive system and prevents the absorption of vitamin B12, resulting in a deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been linked to autoimmune hyperthyroidism. Being strictly vegetarian or following a vegan diet can increase the risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Wondering how veganism can impact you on fertility? Read our article on it here. Type 1 diabetes has also been linked to an increased risk of developing autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Graves’ disease. Did you know? Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system produces antibodies against the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells, meaning the body can no longer efficiently produce its own insulin and therefore cannot regulate blood sugar levels. Primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, is a rare condition that occurs when the adrenal glands (located on top of the kidneys) are damaged. In most cases, it is caused due to autoimmune reasons when the immune system attacks the healthy adrenal glands by mistake. It has been linked to Graves’ disease. Ulcerative colitis is a common form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that is characterised by chronic inflammation and ulcers in the digestive system. It has been linked to Graves’ disease. However, it is uncertain whether this link is due to a specific cause or just a simple coincidence. Hertili-tipPeople with one autoimmune condition have been found to be at increased of developing other autoimmune conditions as well. Always Inform your healthcare provider if any autoimmune diseases run in your family. Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy is usually caused by Graves’ disease. High levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which occur during pregnancy, has also been associated with an overactive thyroid gland. Thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid gland can cause a brief period of hyperthyroidism followed by the development of hypothyroidism or resolution. It can sometimes be caused due to an infection or develop after giving birth (postpartum thyroiditis). Pituitary dysfunction, such as TSH-secreting pituitary adenomas, are benign […]
Thyroid hormones 101 – What can I do if my thyroid hormone results are high?
The thyroid is a small gland in your neck, but don’t be fooled by its size. It plays a vital role in the body and keeping it healthy. By producing important hormones, it can affect your heart rate, metabolism (how well and fast your body processes what you eat and drink) and even fertility. Sometimes the thyroid gland makes too much of these hormones, which can cause a thyroid disorder called hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, located in the brain. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce. The thyroid gland produces 2 main hormones that can impact fertility – Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). Hyperthyroidism can be caused due to various reasons including underlying health conditions, certain medications as well as diet and lifestyle habits. Wondering what the symptoms and causes of hyperthyroidism are? You can read more about it here. Have you just recieved your report and are wondering what you can do to help balance your hormones then your are in the right place. Did you know? Most cases of hyperthyroidism in the UK are due to Graves’ disease or toxic nodular goitre. What can I do to balance my hormones? Certain dietary and lifestyle modifications have been shown to promote healthy thyroid functioning If you are consuming large amounts of iodine in your diet or consuming supplements with iodine in them and have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you should consider limiting or avoiding consuming them to reduce iodine intake. Foods rich in iodine include: Milk and dairy products (a glass of milk is around just over half of the daily recommended nutritional intake), some fortified plant milks;; Fish (including white fish; haddock, cod, battered cod, fish fingers, crab); Eggs (2 eggs are around 1/3rd of your daily requirement); Bread; Fruit; Vegetables such as potato Seaweed is very concentrated and can contain excessive amounts (particularly brown seaweed such as kelp) Iodised salt Did you know? Magnesium affects the body’s ability to absorb calcium. A magnesium deficiency may also worsen symptoms associated with Graves’ disease. If you have or suspect you might have a magnesium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Avocados Dark chocolate Almonds Brazil nuts Cashews Legumes Pumpkin seeds If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. If you have or suspect you might have a selenium deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Brazil nuts; Seafood, such as shrimp, sardines, salmon, halibut, and tuna; Meats like beef steak, beef liver, ground beef, and ham; Eggs; Bread and cereal grains. If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, supplementation may also help improve the risk of hyperthyroidism. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. If you have or suspect you might have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, consider increasing intake of foods rich in it, including: Meat; Fish; Poultry; Eggs; Dairy Fortified products If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, a Vitamin B12 supplement may be necessary to restore levels to optimal levels. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. Did you know? If you might be consuming excessive amounts of copper in your diet, you should consider reducing your consumption. Foods rich in copper include: Oysters Organ meat such as liver Spirulina Shiitake mushrooms Nuts and seeds such as almonds and cashews Lobster Dark chocolate Excessive sodium intake can also contribute to edema (swelling), which is common with Graves’ disease, which is why it is important to control salt intake. Hyperthyroidism can cause the bones to become weak and thin, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Ensuring your diet includes sources of Vitamin D and Calcium can help strengthen your bones. Foods rich in Calcium include: Milk; Cheese and other dairy foods (some dairy products are fortified with iodine and may not be recommended); Green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra Soya products with added calcium such as tofu or fortified soya milk or yoghurts Bread and anything made with fortified flour Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from food more easily. Most of the vitamin D in the body is made in the skin through the absorption of sunlight. Foods rich in vitamin D include: Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel; Red meat; Liver; Egg yolks; Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. If you think your diet might not give your recommended levels, you could consider a supplement especially for Vitamin D as we are not exposed to enough sunlight. However, you must always consult your doctor before deciding to take any supplements. Cutting down on smoking or stopping it altogether is a step you could consider. You can read more about how smoking affects other hormones here. Hyperthyroidism has been linked to an increased risk of developing mood disorders such as mood swings, anxiety and depression. If you think you might be struggling with any of the following, you can try speaking to those you love and trust about your feelings. Sometimes being open about our emotions with people we know is not always easy, and you can always consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional. If you are struggling to conceive and have just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, you can read more about how fertility impacts your mental health here. If you think you might be struggling with handling your emotions and stress during your fertility journey, our counsellor care pathway is here to allow you to express your emotions freely, help you make the right choices, and support you throughout your journey. If your medications might be impacting your thyroid hormone levels, your doctor will generally […]
What to Do When You Have a Haemolysed Blood Sample
With any type of blood collection, haemolysed blood samples can happen. They are very common—in fact, they are actually the number one cause of rejected samples by labs, second only to insufficient sample size (1). But we know it can be frustrating to hear that your sample couldn’t be analysed—especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like having blood taken. In this blog post we will walk you through what happens if your Hertility at-home hormone testing kit comes back with a haemolysed blood sample, what happens during lab tests affected by hemolysis and our top tips for taking and sending off your samples to ensure your hormone blood test results don’t come back haemolysed.
Can I test my hormones and fertility while on birth control?
Whether or not you can test your hormones and fertility while on birth control depends on the type of birth control you use. Despite most of us only being able to reel off a handful, there are actually 17 different types of birth control, or contraception. These include both hormonal and non-hormonal options, plus, long-term and short-term methods. Whatever method of contraception works best for you is personal and will depend on your goals, your body and if you choose to use hormonal contraception, your hormones too. So, from condoms to coils, let’s take a look at the different types of birth control, how they work, and how each will affect a hormone and fertility test. Hormonal contraception What is hormonal contraception? Hormonal contraception uses synthetic hormones, which are basically (wo)man-made versions of our natural hormones, to either prevent us from ovulating and/or to bring about bodily changes that prevent pregnancy. Types of hormonal contraception include: How does hormonal contraception work? To understand how hormonal contraceptives work (and how this might affect your test), it’s important to first understand exactly how your hormones control your menstrual cycle and overall fertility. Your menstrual cycle hormones, including oestrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH) and testosterone, all work together to ensure that each month you ovulate a healthy, mature egg from one of your ovaries. If any of these hormone levels are altered, disrupted or suppressed, your overall menstrual cycle and ovulation can be affected—impacting your fertility and ability to conceive. Hormonal contraceptives use either a combination of synthetic oestrogen and synthetic progesterone (called progestin), or simply just progestin (depending on the type) to alter the balance of your menstrual hormones. This brings about a series of bodily changes that prevent pregnancy, including: Hormonal contraception can also be used to help relieve hormonal symptoms, like acne, and those related to your menstrual cycle, like heavy menstrual bleeding. Can I test my hormones if I’m on hormonal contraception? Technically, yes you can—but because your natural hormone levels will be altered due to the synthetic hormones in your system, you won’t be able to get an accurate result of your natural menstrual cycle hormone levels, including your FSH, LH, or oestradiol (E2). The good news is, with Hertility, even if you’re on hormonal contraception, we can still test you for Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) and your thyroid hormones—Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Free Thyroxine (FT4). Taking a Hertility Hormone & Fertility Test to test your AMH will give you insight into how many eggs you’ve got left (your ovarian reserve), giving you a good idea of your current fertility. Your thyroid hormone levels are a good indicator of your general hormone health and remain unaffected by taking any hormonal contraception. If you’re currently taking hormonal contraception but would like to get insight into your menstrual cycle hormones, then we’d recommend waiting for at least 3 menstrual cycles after coming off hormonal contraception before taking a test. If you’re using a long-term form of hormone contraception, such as the contraceptive injection (known as Depo Provera), you might have to wait up to 12 months for your menstrual cycle hormones to regulate and get back to their natural levels, so we can get an accurate result. Non-hormonal contraception These are your contraceptive types that don’t contain any synthetic hormones, and won’t alter your natural hormone levels if you use them. Types of non-hormonal contraception include: How does non-hormonal contraception work? Non-hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy through a number of different methods, the difference being they tend to use just one method, rather than a combination, like in hormonal contraception. These include: These include: Can I test my hormones if I’m on non-hormonal contraception? Yes, you’re good to go! Non-hormonal contraception does not alter any of your natural hormone levels, so with our Hormone and Fertility Test you can test all of your menstrual cycle hormones, AMH and thyroid hormones when you’re using non-hormonal contraception. Do I need a hormone test? Testing your hormones and fertility can give you important insights into both your overall and reproductive health. Whether you’re experiencing possible hormonal symptoms, or planning ahead for your future family forming options—testing can help give you clarity into what’s going on inside your body. Our At-home Hormone & Fertility Test is personalised to you and based on your unique biometrics, medical history, cycle and symptoms. Our test will screen you for up to 18 reproductive health conditions and give you insights into your ovarian reserve. This can help you to identify any potential underlying health conditions or hormonal imbalances that could affect your chances of conceiving. We recommend regular testing—once a year, or every six months if you’re above 35 or have an underlying condition that might affect fertility. Because our hormones are constantly changing, regular testing helps to ensure you’re tracking any changes over time. This can help you to better manage any symptoms and measure the success of any lifestyle changes or medication if you need to. So, whether you’re curious about your health, planning for future children or trying to conceive, regular hormone testing with our At-Home Hormone & Fertility Tests could be an essential step toward understanding your reproductive health. If you’re on contraception, hormonal or non-hormonal, and want to test your hormones and fertility, you can get started today by taking our online health assessment today. Key takeaways References
Prolactin 101: Everything you need to know about prolactin
Prolactin is perhaps best known as the ‘milk hormone’ because of its vital role in breast growth and breast milk (lactation) production. But prolactin actually has a myriad of functions within the body, playing a vital role in overall health for those both assigned-female and male-at-birth. In this article, we’ll dive into exactly what prolactin is, what its functions are in the body, discuss imbalances in its levels and the importance of testing prolactin levels for reproductive and overall health.
What makes Hertility different to other at-home fertility tests?
Around the world, people are becoming more aware of their fertility. While fertility struggles used to be kept private, the conversation is opening up around the potential for fertility problems and so fertility testing is much more common than it used to be. But with more at-home fertility tests available, how do you know which one is best? This is an important time to put your eggs in the right basket, so let us break it down for you. First things first… The only *true* test of your fertility is to have unprotected sex and see what the outcome is. But this is, of course, not ideal if you’re just curious and want to get proactive in checking in on your fertility. Yes, you’ll know that you’re fertile but you’ll also have a baby on your hands – not ideal if you’re still studying or about to travel and see the world! It’s also important to remember that it takes two to tango and no matter how fertile you are, that’s only 50% of the equation. Sperm count and quality matter just as much, in any fertility journey. That said, your hormones can give you some useful insights into your fertility. But which hormones do you need to keep tabs on? Well, some fertility tests will only look at 4 biomarkers (aka hormones) but here at Hertility, we don’t do things by halves. We understand the complex interplay that goes on between you, your biology and your hormones. That’s why we take a comprehensive, whole body approach when it comes to your hormones and fertility so you can get the whole picture of what’s going on and we can support you with what to do next. It all starts with an online health assessment that helps us personalise the test to you. Meet the star of the show: Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) A key part of any fertility test is measuring the levels of a hormone called Anti-Müllerian Hormone or AMH. Produced by the cells in your developing eggs, AMH can be used as a really powerful indicator of how many eggs you have left. Studies comparing the levels of AMH with the number of eggs seen on an ultrasound (when done on the same day of your cycle) have shown AMH to be a reliable way to gauge egg count.. After peaking in your 20’s, AMH levels decline, dropping more rapidly after your mid-30s. However, this rate of decline differs from person to person so it’s important to test regularly to understand what this rate of decline looks like for you. Based on over 10 years of clinical research, AMH is established as the single most important marker of ovarian reserve and forms a core part of our Hormone & Fertility test. Not only this, but research has also found that AMH has the potential to be used as an indicator of when someone will go through Menopause, a predictor of fertility treatment success and can be used when diagnosing reproductive health conditions such as PCOS & POI. But fertility isn’t just about having lots of eggs…and we know that. A fertility test isn’t all about AMH. AMH alone cannot give you the entire picture, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. So, when looking at your fertility (and, in fact, your overall reproductive health), it’s crucial to take into account factors such as your past medical history, biometrics, overall hormonal health and lifestyle factors. This is because each of these has the potential to either positively or negatively affect your ability to conceive. As well as egg count, egg quality is an important factor too. And whilst there is no test which can tell us about egg quality, we can use information about how you live your life to help you reduce any activities which may be harmful to your maturing follicles and have the potential to reduce the quality of your eggs, such as smoking and drinking. We also need to know how well your reproductive system is functioning. So, by giving us insight into your past medical history, we can understand if you’re at risk of things like tubal factor infertility (where sperm may not be able to reach the egg) even if you’re doing all the right things. We also look at hormones such as your thyroid hormones and prolactin, both of which imbalances can affect how you ovulate (release eggs from your ovaries). The takeaway? When it comes to your fertility, it’s important to get as much information as you can so you can make informed decisions when it matters most. At Hertility, every question in our online health assessment has been carefully selected to build a 360 degree view of your health and fertility. This means that we can select the exact combination of hormones to test you for to make sure you get a clear picture of every aspect of your reproductive health and fertility.
What is AMH and what can AMH testing tell me?
Key takeaways Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) is an important hormone when it comes to our fertility. Produced by the follicles that house our eggs, our AMH levels can give us a insight into your reproductive health because it is reflective of your ovarian reserve (egg count) and whether fertility treatments like egg freezing or IVF might be right for us. But as always, getting the straight-talking info we need on our hormones can be hard, and many of us are left asking questions like ‘what is a good AMH level for my age’? And, ‘what are the symptoms of low AMH’? Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about AMH and the importance of AMH testing. First up, what is AMH? AMH is a reproductive hormone made by the small sacs (called follicles) in our ovaries that hold our eggs before they are released each month during ovulation. Unlike your menstrual hormones which are cyclical, meaning their levels fluctuate throughout the month, your AMH levels stay relatively stable throughout your menstrual cycle. Since they are made by the follicles, your AMH levels are a reflection of how many eggs you might have left, known as your ovarian reserve. You’re born with all the eggs you will ever have. Throughout your lifetime as you age your egg quality and quality will decline—right up until menopause when all your eggs are gone. AMH levels by age If you’re wondering ‘what is a normal AMH level for my age?’, you’re not alone. AMH levels will steadily decrease year after year from your mid 20s onwards, as your ovarian reserve declines. After your mid 30s, the AMH decline becomes much more rapid and completely drops off as you near menopause (usually between 45 and 55 years old). Although the overall levels of our AMH by age is a general downward trend, each person has an individual rate of decline depending on genetics, lifestyle, medication and underlying conditions—therefore some people will be blessed with an abundance of eggs for longer. To read more about the impact of age on fertility, you can do so here. So what is a good AMH level? The higher your AMH the better, right? Well… not exactly. Like all of our hormones, too much or too little can cause us problems. High AMH levels In general, higher AMH levels indicate larger numbers of ovarian follicles and therefore a larger ovarian reserve. Some underlying reproductive health conditions like polycystic ovaries or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are associated with high AMH levels too, which can cause symptoms such as irregular periods or no periods at all which can affect your fertility. Low AMH levels On the flip side, low AMH levels can indicate lower numbers of remaining follicles and therefore, a smaller ovarian reserve. Very low AMH levels are often seen in premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), which is a condition where menopause occurs before the age of 40. Similarly, some autoimmune conditions, like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can cause low AMH levels too. Ovarian surgery can also carry a risk of low AMH levels afterwards. Some lifestyle factors have also been linked to low AMH levels – smoking, obesity, and poor diet and nutrition—specifically insufficient Vitamin D levels. Symptoms of low AMH levels include irregular menstrual cycles and difficulty getting pregnant. How do I know if I have normal AMH levels? Should I do an AMH test? In short, yes. Doing an AMH blood test can give you an accurate insight into your current AMH levels, and give you an insight into your reproductive health because it is reflective of your ovarian reserve (egg count). Your AMH levels can also be used as an indication of whether you have polycystic ovaries, however, it can not currently be used to diagnose PCOS based on current guidelines. Understanding your AMH levels and ovarian reserve can also help to determine if you would be suitable for certain fertility treatments like IVF or egg freezing. During fertility treatment, AMH levels are often tested to help determine the doses of medication and are to predict the outcomes of the egg collection process. You can read more about IVF here. Investigation of AMH levels is often done in combination with an Antral follicle count (AFC), which is an internal ultrasound scan where the number of small follicles seen on the ovary is counted. You can take an at-home AMH test with a Hertility Hormone and Fertility test, alongside up to 9 other hormones such as oestrogen, testosterone and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Check your AMH levels by age, and get results in as little as 10 days. Although AMH levels give us insight into the number of follicles in your ovarian reserve, it does not provide any insight into the quality of the eggs. AMH levels alone can not be used to determine someone’s chance to conceive because conception is dependent on many other factors, including if ovulation is happening, the condition of the fallopian tubes and uterus and the quality of the partner’s sperm. AMH FAQs How to increase AMH levels? Unfortunately, you can’t stop your AMH from declining with age. That being said, there are some lifestyle and diet changes that can improve your fertility, check our article on fertility nutrition and lifestyle tips here. What should I do if I have low AMH levels? If you’ve done an AMH blood test and your results have come back out of range for your age, you can have your AMH test results explained by one of our fertility advisors or specialist doctors. Monitoring your AMH levels twice a year with an at-home blood test, or more than twice a year is also recommended if you have low AMH levels and are actively trying to conceive, or wanting to do so soon. Additionally, if you’re worried about your future fertility but not ready to have kids yet, you may want to consider egg freezing. Or, if you have low AMH levels and are struggling with […]
Why should you test your hormones?
First, let’s get back to basics… What even are hormones? Put simply, hormones are small chemical messengers that travel through the blood to different parts of your body. They help control many different functions from growth and development to metabolism (how your body gets energy from the food you eat), menstrual cycles, fertility and mood, just to name a few! Hormones are made by special cells in a network of glands and organs called the endocrine system. If you cast your mind back to biology lessons at school, you’ll probably remember that some of the major endocrine glands are: The pituitary gland, pineal gland and hypothalamus (these can all be found in the brain) The thyroid and parathyroid gland (the butterfly-looking gland at the front of your neck) The adrenal glands (these sit right on top of the kidneys and pancreas) Sex organs (also known as the testes and ovaries) Why do you need to test your hormones? As well as maintaining your reproductive health, hormones play a role in influencing our general health and well-being. Our hormones are carefully balanced all the way from puberty to menstruation, pregnancy to menopause and beyond. However, when this system becomes disrupted or doesn’t function properly, it can affect your whole body. So, a change in your hormone levels could be the reason why you’re feeling sluggish, slightly emotional, your period has gone out of whack or you’re struggling to get pregnant So much of modern medicine focuses on treating one health issue at a time, resulting in a long and arduous journey to pinpoint a cause for various combinations of symptoms., However, our hormone test aims to revolutionise the diagnostic process to shorten the diagnosis time for a range of reproductive health conditions. In short, it is no longer acceptable for an endometriosis diagnosis to take an average of 8 years or for a PCOS diagnosis to take longer than 2 years. Nor is it acceptable to be made to feel like your symptoms are all in your head. Hormones 101 Let’s look at the hormones that control your menstrual cycles: We are all born with all the eggs we will ever have. This is called the ovarian reserve. During the first half of each menstrual cycle, a small number of eggs from this reserve will begin to grow and mature under the influence of our hormones. To learn more about the basics of the menstrual cycle, check out this article but for now, let’s take a look at each of the menstrual cycle hormones Follicle-Stimulating Hormone: One of the main hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle is Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). It’s produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and plays a big role in your fertility as it stimulates a chosen set of eggs from the ovarian reserve to grow and develop during the first half of every cycle called the follicular phase. However, not all the eggs which get matured under FSH will make it to the final stages of development. Eventually, only one egg will be selected as the chosen one, called the dominant follicle, and will continue to grow. The smaller your ovarian reserve, the more FSH your brain produces to try and encourage eggs to grow, which is why monitoring it can help you understand the health of your ovaries. FSH levels will therefore slowly increase with age as your ovarian reserve declines. When your ovarian reserve is finally depleted (and menopause occurs), FSH levels become substantially elevated, which is why it is a good indicator of menopause. Persistently high FSH levels in someone younger than 40 is an indication of premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) which is when someone experiences menopause before the age of 40. Oestradiol: During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the follicles start to make another important hormone, called Oestrogen, as they grow. Oestrogen levels rise throughout the follicular phase, which also encourages the growth and thickening of the lining of the uterus, creating a comfy place for a fertilised egg to implant. So, monitoring oestrogen levels gives a good indication of how well your ovaries and menstrual cycle are working. Although this is not Oestrogen’s only job, it really knows how to multitask. Not only does it help to control our menstrual cycles, but it also regulates many other aspects of our well-being, including our bone health, heart health, skin, hair, and mood. Oestrogen levels will fluctuate and eventually significantly drop when your ovarian reserve becomes depleted and menopause (or POI) occurs. Low oestrogen levels are therefore linked with many symptoms of menopause, such as dry skin and hair, vaginal dryness, painful sex, hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty falling asleep and fatigue. Oestrogen levels before menopause could be affected by lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise. Towards the end of the follicular phase, oestrogen levels reach their peak. This stimulates the pituitary gland in the brain to produce a surge of a hormone called Luteinising hormone (LH). LH then triggers ovulation, which is the release of the mature egg from its ovarian home so it can have a shot at fertilisation. If you have ever used ovulation predictor kits to track ovulation, then you’ll be familiar with LH as they are designed to detect the LH levels in your urine. Checking your LH levels at the beginning of your cycle with a blood test can help you understand if you’ll ovulate later in the cycle, which is particularly important if you’re looking to conceive. If your LH levels are too low or too high, it can interfere with ovulation. High LH levels are often seen in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can cause irregular ovulation and issues with periods and fertility. Consistently low LH levels are often associated with issues with the pituitary gland, which can be caused by anorexia or malnutrition. Did you know? You can have your period even if you didn’t ovulate during that menstrual cycle. It’s called an anovulatory cycle and is […]