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If you’re trying to get pregnant, you may have come across the term ‘FSH Level’ or ‘Follicle Stimulating Hormone Level’ from your fertility specialist. This hormone is responsible for causing ovulation and makes sure that the egg gets released from the ovaries for fertilization. Having proper FSH levels means that you’re viable for pregnancy and have higher chances of conceiving a healthy baby. High FSH levels are pregnancy woes in women and here’s everything you need to know about having good FSH levels to get pregnant.
What is Follicle Stimulating Hormone
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is a hormone that’s responsible for causing ovulation in women. All women in their menstrual cycles experience above-baseline FSH levels which is a good indicator of being able to get pregnant. Older women have higher FSH levels due to ovarian maturing; since the ‘older’ ovary requires more stimulation in order to stimulate egg follicles, FSH levels rise with increasing age. Women who experience PCOS (‘Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’) have low FSH levels and either ovulate erratically or do not ovulate at all.
What is Normal FSH Level to Get Pregnant
Normal FSH levels in women for pregnancy range between 4.7 and 8 IU/L during menstrual cycles. These levels take into consideration the fact that you aren’t on any birth control pills or similar medications 4 weeks prior to FSH Level testing at the clinic.
What Causes High FSH Levels
High FSH levels in women are linked to the reasons below.
1. High Maternal Age
Late pregnancies are common in the U.S. and around the world as women are seemingly getting pregnant after 35. The ability to conceive deteriorates slightly after the 30s and after 40s, it becomes close to impossible to get pregnant. As a woman ages, her FSH levels begin to elevate in an attempt to produce viable eggs. At each menstrual cycle, you lose some eggs from the finite number of eggs a woman has in her body. More FSH is required to stimulate ovulation as a woman ages till she reaches a point where elevated FSH levels no longer work and are unable to assist with ovulation.
2. Inferior Quality of Eggs
Inferior quality of eggs in women are the second cause of infertility and high FSH levels. This results from health problems, lack of proper nutrition, endometriosis, radiation therapy and chemotherapy too. Inferior quality of eggs leads to a woman’s FSH levels to rise, a typical response from the body in an attempt to improve their quality. Young women are also susceptible to this condition.
3. Premature Ovarian Failure
When the ovaries are damaged and a woman is unable to produce eggs any longer before the age of 32, the brain sends a message to the pituitary gland to raise FSH levels for stimulating egg production. FSH level symptoms, in this case, is similar to those who experience menopause and the FSH levels keep rising as a result of lack of production of eggs.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Test
FSH is present in both men and women and your doctor may do a series of tests to get them checked, in conjunction with other hormonal tests like estrogen testing, testosterone sampling and luteinizing hormonal testing.
1. When Are FSH Levels Checked
In a healthy ovulating woman, FSH levels are checked on Day 3 of the menstrual cycle, alongside two other tests which are the luteinizing hormone (LH) test and estradiol testing.
2. Why is FSH Test Needed
FSH test is needed in both men and women for the following reasons-
- To assess if the ovaries are damaged and if the woman has PCOS
- To check for Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and low sperm counts in men
- For diagnosing hypogonadism
- For determining precocious puberty or delayed puberty in kids
- To check whether menstrual cycles are regular or irregular
- To diagnose any disorders or diseases of the pituitary gland
3. Types of Tests
Types of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) tests for men and women are-
- Urine Test – Your doctor may ask for multiple urine samples throughout a period of 24 hours for testing your FH levels in the body.
- Blood Test – Blood work is done by injecting a needle into a vein on your arm. It may sting a little and you may experience bruising, but blood work is necessary for FSH blood test fertility
- Other Tests (with FSH testing) – Other tests involved alongside FSH testing are testosterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone and estradiol tests. These are accompanied with your regular FSH fertility test.
FSH and Ovarian Reserve
Your ovarian reserve is basically the number of eggs you have in your ovaries. Think of them like eggs in a basket and the more you have, the chances of finding high-quality ones are greater. Although some women may have a higher number of eggs, they may have poor quality ones too and that’s something to keep in mind. Ovarian reserve testing is common in women to check for fertility issues during menstrual cycles and the three common types of ovarian reserve tests available are – FSH Tests, Antral Follicle Count (AFC) test, and Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test.
- Antral Follicle Count (AFC) Testing – This is an ultrasound test which counts your antral follicles. This test is not always accurate due to it being very technically-dependent, however, the ideal AFC is 15-20 for the two ovaries in women.
- Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) – A newer blood test which is more accurate that AFC testing, the AMH is a type of hormone that contributes to the growth of antral follicles. The more antral follicles you have, the higher your AMH levels are, since they are correlated. Regular blood testing reveals AMH levels in your body during menstrual cycles and if you get a weird number on this test, it’s best to repeat it.
- FSH Testing – FSH levels higher than 12 are a cause of worry for women, but it is important to keep in mind that these levels change on a monthly basis due to changes in the number of antral follicles in women. If your estradiol levels are <200pmol/l, then your FSH levels will be accurate in determining the quality and health of your ovarian reserve.
Ovarian reserve tests don’t tell the entire story of the chances of conception and a successful pregnancy, however, they are helpful guides which are used for optimizing diet and lifestyle choices for treating infertility issues in women.
FSH and Menopause
If your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level is consistently peaking at 30 IU/mL or higher, you have been approaching or have already reached menopause. This accompanies the fact that you haven’t had a menstrual period for an entire year. Clinicians sometimes recommend saliva testing in conjunction with tests like AFC and AMH to confirm menopause since FSH alone isn’t enough to confirm whether menopause is concerning. Baseline FSH levels increase when women reach perimenopause which indicates that a lower amount of eggs are left. Perimenopause lasts 4 years and a woman enters menopause in 12 months from the date she hasn’t had her last period.
Sometimes the numbers may vary and you may need to repeat the FSH-level test. Numbers become misleading especially if you’re on birth control pills and other prescription drugs prior to testing. FSH testing is invalid if you’re on certain hormonal therapies as well and if you suspect that you’re in perimenopause, you might as well get a complex medical examination done at the clinic or hospital.
What are the Chances of Getting Pregnant with High FSH
High FSH levels reduce your chances of getting pregnant and are good indicators of chromosomal abnormalities. Clinical statistics indicate that getting pregnant is difficult to impossible for those who have consistently high FSH levels and egg donation treatment becomes the only viable choice for a healthy baby and a pregnancy. If you are experiencing high FSH levels during the early stages of your menstrual cycle, it could be an indicator of ovary failure, reduced fertility, poor quality eggs and decreased implantation rates.
Keep in mind that FSH levels of 15 and above are considered high and anything 9.5 and below is the FSH range for fertility and pregnancy. There have been cases where women were able to experience high FSH levels and successful pregnancy, although those were in the minority.
How to Lower Your High FSH levels
If you’re trying to lower your high FSH, then we’ve got good news for you. There is still time and there are ways you can safely lower them and let’s not forget the magic word – naturally. Here are a few ways you can do that-
1. Eat Sea Vegetables and Dark Greens
Sea vegetables like kelp, nori and wakame contain large amounts of iodine and essential fatty acids which are crucial for optimum endocrine health. Try eating these with salads, sushi or make vegetable rolls out of them. If you don’t get sea vegetables where you live, you may consider using supplements. Kelp supplements are especially popular due to their high iodine content.
2. Take Bee Pollen
High in nutrient density, bee pollen is loaded with minerals, proteins, vitamins and immune-healthy compounds. Bee pollen is also available in supplement-form.
3. Smoothies and Juicing with Super Foods
A rich source of protein and packed with important minerals like magnesium and potassium, spirulina is one among nature’s superfoods and makes the list of foods for optimal endocrine health. Other superfoods you could try are chlorella, moringa and chia seeds. Nutrition manufacturers these days sell superfood blends too which include green blends of Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Barley Grass, Chlorella, Acai Berry, Stevia, and others.
4. Fertility Massages
Fertility massages balance the hormones and control their production by obtaining stress relief through the massaging of the ovaries. The liver is massaged too and communication between the pituitary, hypothalamus and ovaries are enhanced.
Acupuncture is very effective in treating hormonal imbalances and normalizes FSH levels when combined with proper nutrition. Auricular acupuncture is the most preferred method of treatment and cures disorders related to the autonomic nervous system.
6. Healthy Weight
Being overweight, underweight, or obese leads to fertility issues in women and affects FSH levels. Focus on moving towards a healthy weight and get proper nutrition for best results. You don’t just want to be at the proper weight range according to your height, you also have to make sure you’re getting your nutrients too.
7. Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Yoga, meditation, art, prayer and other stress-relieving or ‘grounding’ activities are perfect for lowering stress levels alongside your FSH. Other stress-reduction therapies you could try are Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Participate in dancing classes, socialize with friends and enjoy an active but healthy lifestyle. Less stress is a major indicator of a healthy hormonal system and is not only good for your FSH levels, but for your life too. Improve the quality of life by making the necessary diet and lifestyle tweaks and you’ll experience normal FSH levels in no time.
8. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Lowering of blood sugar levels assist with estrogen production and balancing FSH levels in the body. Lowered blood sugar levels contribute to stronger embryos and proper nourishment of the developing follicles in ovaries. Chinese medicine encourages using cooling foods, decreasing the consumption of hot and spicy foods too for normalizing estrogen production in women and balancing yin and jing for improving states of fertility.
Herbs like Maca, American Ginseng and other adaptogen-herbs are effective in normalizing estrogen levels in the body. Men and women who consume Maca and American ginseng have experienced increased libido, healthy sperm counts and proper estrogen levels, all of which are essential for normal FSH levels and a healthy pregnancy. You can try Chinese herbs too which are known to nourish the spleen, kidneys and liver, all of which are responsible for optimal reproductive health.
Other options you could consider if you have high FSH levels are in-vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination (IUI) in conjunction with stimulating your ovaries by raising FSH levels by methods recommended by a fertility specialist. These involve injectable medications like Gonal-f, Follistim and Bravelle. Your last resort will be looking for an egg donor if things look bleak and you no longer have any eggs producing inside your ovaries.
If you eat healthily, live stress-free and get your daily dose of nutrition, then there’s no reason why you cannot have a healthy pregnancy. Don’t let high FHS levels deter you from having a pregnancy and just give your body the necessary time to recuperate, heal, and normalize them. It takes time and as the saying always goes – ‘better late than never.’
Consult with your clinic or doctor regarding what else you can do if you’re having problems conceiving even after following the above advice, nutrition guidelines, and lifestyle tips.