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So you’re thinking about having a baby in the future and want to know more about your own fertility. Can you check your fertility numbers at home? In short, yes you can, but it’s important to know exactly what you’re checking for first.
Fertility is influenced by many factors including genetics, anatomy, and hormones -- as well as lifestyle. While you can not change genetics, and it is difficult to change anatomy, hormones are under more control with the guidance of a physician. Your reproductive hormones interact with each other and change in specific ways throughout your menstrual cycle. If one hormone is off, your whole cycle can be off.
On average, you go through your menstrual cycle 450 times during your life. When the hormones of your menstrual cycle have abnormal patterns or interactions, fertility is subsequently affected -- as are other systems affected by your hormones, including your mood and metabolism. The four primary hormones affecting fertility are Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Progesterone, and Estradiol (the primary form of Estrogen).
The menstrual cycle begins with the Follicular Phase, which commences with menstruation. A decrease in hormones from the previous cycle cause the recently developed lining of the uterus to start to shed. FSH begins to increase during this phase because of the recent loss of estradiol that was suppresses FSH. FSH, as implied in follicle stimulating name, stimulates the follicles of the ovary until a single dominant follicle is selected. This follicle then starts to produce estradiol. As estradiol increases, the uterus starts to prepare for possible implantation and there is a surge in LH.
Once the surge in LH commences, the body transitions from the Follicular Phase to the Lutueal Phase. The LH phase causes the selected follicle to evolve into its final phase before fertilization, the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces estradiol and progesterone, which help build the uterine lining. If not fertilized, the corpus luteum eventually breaks down, no longer producing progesterone and estradiol, causing the uterine lining to break down into menses, and the cycle starts over again.
While most of the time this process repeats naturally, there are so many opportunities for error that hormones are a common cause of fertility issues.
Until recently, the only method women had to monitor the functioning of their cycle was how regular menses came, and whether their temperature increased the 0.5 degrees that happens after ovulation due to the rising amount of progesterone.
Today, however, you can actually check your levels of all these hormones at key times in your cycle. Specifically, tests like our own EverlyWell Women's Health & Fertility Panel checks FSH, LH, Estradiol, and Progesterone via at home testing. Everly checks other hormones that interact with these as well including DHEA, SHBG, and Testosterone.
In addition, Everly checks the other most common hormonal causes of infertility. These causes include abnormalities in adrenal and thyroid function. Everly checks cortisol four times throughout the day, and various markers of thyroid function, including TSH, Free T3 and T4, and Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies.In consultation with a physician, you can take steps towards maximizing the regularity of your cycle, which can benefit your fertility, mood, and even your metabolism. While this can give you more control over your ability to get pregnant, we health professionals are still working on methods to increase control throughout life -- from being a teen onwards.