Hormones are one of the body’s great communication networks used to regulate growth, reproduction, and other processes. When too much or too little of any given hormone is produced, these processes are not executed correctly, and problems arise.
A hormonal imbalance can cause female infertility by disrupting ovulation, preventing the thickening of the uterine lining, or otherwise preventing a pregnancy from becoming established. Fortunately, once identified, a hormonal imbalance can usually be corrected through medication, lifestyle or dietary changes, or a combination of both.
Male reproductive hormone problems can affect a man’s sperm production, their overall sense of well-being, and libido (sex drive). Men with hormonal imbalances may develop non-obstructive azoospermia (absence of sperm) and tend to have underdeveloped testicles.
In many of these cases, fertility specialists evaluate blood hormone concentrations, including FSH, LH, and testosterone. Male infertility caused by hormonal imbalance typically requires treatment with medication to regulate sperm production, in combination with in vitro fertilization.
The female reproductive system requires a delicate balance of several hormones to successfully create viable, mature eggs that can be fertilized by sperm and subsequently implant in the uterine lining. Menopause often signals the end of a woman’s reproductive years, as the hormones responsible for pregnancy begin to decline or cease completely. But hormonal imbalances at an earlier age can also affect reproduction.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulates the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or luteinizing hormone (LH). When your FSH or LH levels aren’t balanced, ovulation does not occur or fails to occur effectively.
FSH causes the egg-containing follicles in the ovary to develop the eggs properly so that fertilization is possible. At a certain point during this process, the follicle also produces estrogen. This hormone creates changes in the uterus that enable it to receive an implanting embryo. LH triggers ovulation (the release of a mature egg from the ovary).
Progesterone is another hormone that causes the uterine lining to become ready to receive a fertilized embryo. Progesterone is released after ovulation by the remains of the follicle after it’s released an egg.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is produced once an embryo implants in the uterus and helps maintain high levels of progesterone and estrogen, which are necessary for a successful pregnancy.
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