Dealing with High FSH Levels in Women

Submitted by Pregnancy and Baby Care team on July 31, 2012
FSH, also known as follicle stimulating hormone, stimulates ovulation in a woman during the menstrual cycle. FSH is made by the pituitary gland that is located at the base of the brain. It makes its way into the ovaries and stimulates the follicles so that they produce estrogen and mature eggs.

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High FSH levels in the blood may be an indication of reduced ovarian function or failure of the ovaries. FSH is one of the most important hormones of a woman’s reproductive system.

There are many different factors that can become high FSH causes; these can include advanced age of motherhood, premature failure of the ovaries, and poor quality of the eggs. Twenty five percent of women have their first child after the age of 35 in the United States. A woman’s ability to conceive decreases after the age of 30, and post 40 it declines even more. Women are born with a set number of eggs and every menstrual cycle the body releases these eggs, hence reducing the number. The amount of FSH is increased in the body to help ovulation and balance hormones. As a woman ages, the body creates more FSH to balance the hormones. The creation of eggs becomes less as menopause comes closer, while the body continues to increase levels of FSH.

  • Another reason for high FSH levels is due to premature ovarian failure. This condition happens when a woman’s body stops producing eggs before the age of 40. When a woman’s eggs mature, a signal is sent to the brain to stop producing FSH; however when the body stops creating eggs altogether, the levels of FSH keep on increasing. Women who have this condition usually develop it before they turn 32, but it can be seen in girls as young as 14 years.
  • High levels of FSH can also be caused due to poor egg quality. For an egg to be healthy it must have the right amount of chromosomes and it should be able to combine these chromosomes with a sperm to grow and survive. Levels of FSH are increased if the needed amounts of chromosomes are not present. It is the body’s way of telling the pituitary gland that it needs to up the amounts of FSH to improve the quality of the eggs.

Treating high FSH in women is quite controversial. Many women try to lower their FSH levels but this might not necessarily mean that the ovarian reserve improves. Lowering the FSH levels can be done in two ways: by artificially suppressing it exogenously - which is done from outside the body by taking synthetic estrogen and birth control pills - or by suppressing it endogenously, which is from the inside. There are many options to consider when a woman has been found to have this physical condition. These include fertility treatments such as IVF and IUI, monitoring menstrual cycles and trying natural conception, looking at alternative cures or considering donor eggs and adoption.  For most women, this is a very delicate and difficult condition to live with; hence they should be sure to get second opinions where doctors are concerned and also get all the support they need.

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