Hands over my chest and I promise to tell you only the truth. I did not know I had a cycle before The Fertile Chick came into my life. I knew I had some hormones, especially, progesterone and estrogen, all thanks to distant memories of my secondary school biology class.
As you can imagine, I had a lot to learn and read to catch up with the fertility movement, but I did, and while doing that, I found that, there were more hormones, and people like me who had no idea what their body was capable of doing, but was not doing, thus elongating their stay on the fertility treadmill.
I probably did not know, because I did not have a challenge in that area of my life, but I have come to appreciate, and at best imagine, what the journey is all about. There are some hormones that affect fertility. They could determine how long, or short, a couple could stay on the fertility journey. As you will find out, there are the good, the bad and the necessary parts to all these hormones.
First off is the Estrogen hormone. This is a very important hormone in the female reproductive system. It is produced by the developing follicles in a woman’s ovaries. This hormone is present in both women and men, but there is usually a higher level of estrogen in women of reproductive age.
The good part of Estrogen is that in women of reproductive age, this hormone helps to create a thick endometrium, which is good for the implantation and nourishment of fertilized eggs. It also signals the release of LH (Luteinizing Hormone) which is needed to trigger ovulation. Estrogen produces cervical fluid which is necessary for the sperm to travel to the fallopian tube where the egg may be fertilized. It causes the cervix to soften and open so that the sperm may enter and reach the fallopian tube for fertilization. In a man, estrogen helps to regulate the maturation of healthy sperm.
However, when it was it is in low supply, a woman can become prone to headaches, hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Importantly, a lack of estrogen can also affect fertility by preventing ovulation and not allowing the lining of the uterus to thicken enough for the fertilized eggs to implant.
The likely reason for an estrogen deficiency would be too little of the Luteinizing Hormone, which regulates the manufacture of estrogen. It can also be a result of the pituitary gland functioning incorrectly; such as in the case of excessive exercise, being underweight or having an eating disorder. Now, you know what to look out for.
Just as estrogen in low levels does not do a TTC mom any favours, having too much estrogen is also not a good idea, as it can bring on irregular periods, headaches, anxiety, depression, digestive issues, weight gain, and heart palpitations.
What can cause estrogen levels to rise include eating a poor diet, being overweight, stress, hormone replacement therapy, as well as being exposed to environmental sources of estrogen, called xenoestrogens; which can be found in growth hormones and pesticides that are stored inside the fat cells of poultry, fish and various other food sources.
Having a high level of estrogen can prevent conception through the creation of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis. Estrogen also increases the rate at which women reach reproductive maturity; now we are talking low ovarian reserve. A lot is tied to having a balanced estrogen levels in the body.
A study conducted at Vanderbilt University showed that too much estrogen can negatively impact a woman’s fertile window and may prevent an embryo from implanting.
One of its researchers, Sudhasu K. Dey, PhD, of the Division of Reproductive and Developmental Biology, explains:“The most exciting aspect of this investigation is that a very narrow range of estrogen levels can alter embryo implantation and gene expression.”
This is the hormone that supports the healthy growth of an embryo. Progesterone dominates the cycle after ovulation had occurred. Before ovulation, progesterone is present but only in very small amounts but after ovulation, progesterone is produced by the remains of the ovarian follicle and is released in dramatically higher amounts. Progesterone plays the following roles; make the lining of the uterus soft and spongy so that a fertilized egg can latch onto it and implant. It is very important to support and sustain pregnancy.
When progesterone is in low supply in the body, it can cause recurrent early miscarriage, no periods, no ovulation, endometriosis, and cramps before and during menses if it comes, PCOS is not left out of the drill. What this shows is that, this hormone and estrogen are very important to the reproductive life of a couple.
And when in high supply, progesterone is not known to cause serious medical consequences. Levels of progesterone do increase naturally in pregnancy as mentioned above. Although, high levels of progesterone are associated with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia (an inherited disorder that results in low levels of cortisol and high levels of male hormones causing development of male characteristics in females, and early puberty in both boys and girls).
However, the high progesterone levels are a consequence of, and not a cause of, this condition. Also, high levels of progesterone are associated with an increased risk for developing breast cancer.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
This is the last hormone to peak before ovulation, and is the hormone responsible for triggering the rupture of the ovarian sac that releases the egg at ovulation. This hormone can be measured by ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) and fertility monitors that use chemicals to identify its presence in your urine.
The LH stimulates cells in the testes to produce testoterone, which acts locally to support sperm production. In women, the hormone carries out different roles in the two halves of the menstrual cycle, leading to the production of estrogen in the first half of the menstrual cycle and progesterone in the second half of the cycle.
When there is too much of the LH in the body, it can be an indication of infertility. Since the secretion of luteinising hormone is tightly controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, high levels of luteinising hormone in the bloodstream can indicate decreased sex steroid production from the testes or ovaries.
Just as too much of it could indicate infertility, too little luteinising hormone will also result in infertility in both men and women, as a vital level of luteinising hormone is required to support testicular or ovarian function.
Those are just three of the hormones who have powerful influence on the fertility of a man or a woman. Hope you gained more insight the functions of these hormones.
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