Follicle Stimulating Hormone
FSH Ranges, Tests And Treatment

FSH hormone ranges

Woman having a FSH blood test

FSH Levels

Contents

What Is FSH?
What Is A Normal FSH Level?
How Are FSH Levels Tested?
Who Needs Testing?
How Are FSH Levels Reduced?
FSH Levels Normal But Still Can't Get Pregnant?


Related Guides

IVF Guide
Menstruation Guide

What Is FSH?

Follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) are an essential 'ingredient' in regulating a woman's menstrual cycle. They are a naturally occurring hormone released by the pituitary gland (located in the brain, see human body) and cause eggs in the ovaries to ripen and mature. Men also produce FSH and it helps with sperm production. High levels of FSH in younger women can cause female infertility and in men it can cause male infertility. In older women, high FSH levels is an indication that they are in perimenopause. FSH levels rise when the ovaries start to produce less estrogen. While this is a natural part of the aging process (which is why women gradually lose their fertility), in younger women low estrogen production is usually caused by an underlying condition like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). When estrogen levels start to fall, the pituitary gland cranks up its FSH production in response. It tries to kick-start the ovaries into producing more estrogen. When the ovaries do not react, estrogen levels stay low and no egg is released. Pregnancy cannot occur.

What Is A Normal FSH Level?

Although the numbers may vary from lab to lab, anything over 10mIU/ml is considered a diminished ovarian reserve. Ovarian reserve is a term doctors use to describe the ability of the ovaries to produce healthy eggs for fertilization. A diminished reserve is not good news for women who wish to become pregnant naturally. They may need to consider IVF therapy. If you are aged under 40 and your FSH level is higher than 20 you will be diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. If you are aged over 40 your doctor will probably say your levels are a natural response to aging and that you are entering menopause.

FSH Levels and IVF

FSH Level (mIU/ml) What It Means For Women Considering IVF
Less than 6 Happy days, excellent level.
6 to 8 Normal. You should respond well to ovarian stimulation
8 to 10 Fair. Your response is likely to be between normal and slightly low.
10 to 12 Your ovarian reserve is lower than normal. You are less likely to respond to stimulation and your egg and embryo quality is not likely to be great. The rate of a live birth is reduced. In women over 40 it is an indication of perimenopause. Read how menopause affects the body.
12 to 17 Even lower response again to stimulation and low live birth rate.
Over 17 Depending on the clinic they may say this is a 'no go', as a live birth is not feasible even with IVF.

How Are FSH Levels Tested?

A simple blood test is all that is needed.

Who Needs Testing?

Your doctor may order the test if:

1. You are trying for a baby for some time but have not become pregnant. See: How long does it take to get pregnant?
2. You have PCOS, ovarian cysts or irregular periods.
3. You wish to test for menopause.
4. You are male wishing to test for fertility.
See: How does a doctor test for infertility in men?

How Are FSH Levels Reduced?

Currently there is no conventional medical treatment for lowering FSH levels. A doctor may prescribe contraceptive pills or synthetic estrogen, which can help women with annoying PCOS symptoms or irregular periods. In some instances it may help to kick-start the ovaries into producing eggs again, although evidence of success is thin on the ground. Some doctors feel prescribing birth control pills for fertility purposes is a waste of time when other infertility treatments may be more suitable (like IVF).

If you wish to become pregnant there is however some evidence that acupuncture may help to balance the pituitary gland. Also, other methods for lowering your levels naturally include:

1. Doing a liver detox diet for 10 days (see Preparing For IVF) to balance your system.
2. Taking 3 supplements daily: vitamin B complex, zinc and essential fatty acid.
3. Vitex agnus castus (chaste tree berry) is known to suppress FSH levels.
4. Lose weight if you need to and take some gentle exercise everyday (walking, swimming, cycling).

FSH Levels Normal But Still Can't Get Pregnant?

A high FSH level tends to indicate poor egg quality, however even if your FSH levels are within the normal range, you can still have poor egg quality. This is particularly true of women in their 40s. An infertile woman of 43 for example with normal FSH levels (7) still has a low chance of conceiving, even using IVF because her eggs are not likely to be very ‘healthy’. This is why most fertility clinics have an age restriction on IVF; the cut off range is usually between the ages of 42 and 45. One way to increase the chance of having a baby at this age is to use a donor egg from a younger woman (this is known as egg donation, an expensive fertility treatment).

Read more:
What is egg donation?
Explanation of the procedure: How does egg donation work?
Weighing up the arguments: What are the pros and cons of egg donation?

  Related Articles on FSH

For more related topics, see the following:

IVF Protocols: Explanation of IVF treatment plans.
Development of the female body: Hormones and body shape.
IVF Success Rates: What are your chances of conceiving by age?
IVF Costs: Can you afford $55,000?

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