Hormones that are produced in our body play a pivotal role in everything that happens within. Digestion to excretion, endocrine, muscular, circulation, or reproduction, hormones plays an important role. The hormone is a system of chemical communication that our body uses to regulate metabolism, growth, reproduction, etc. They are chemical substances that are produced by some specialized body cells and transported to various systems through the bloodstream. Hormones help in the coordination, organization, and control of the function of cells and tissues. The human body specifically uses around 50 hormones to regulate the functions of different organs within the body. Equally crucial is the role of hormones in the reproductive system. The hormonal level needs to be in perfect balance for perfect reproductive health. From the release of an egg to fertilization and development of an embryo, everything depends on the levels of hormones. Any imbalance in the hormones of the reproductive system can cause infertility in both men and women. A perfect hormonal balance involves the timing that the hormones are released, their interactions with others to work in synergy, and their response through cell receptors.
Effect of hormones on female fertility
Right from menarche (the beginning of the first menstrual cycle) to menopause (ceasing of menstruation) in a female, hormones are very important. For a female to conceive, the hormones should signal the ovaries to release the egg to travel into the fallopian tube, fertilize, and then the embryo to get implanted into the uterus. Likewise, in a male, it is responsible for messaging the testes to release sperm that travels through a duct system to reach the freshly released egg waiting to be fertilized. Each process must be signalled by the hormones. An imbalance in the hormones can disrupt the entire process making pregnancy extremely difficult.
Hormones responsible for fertility
Though it is a well-known fact that there are several hormones in the human body, a few are responsible for reproduction. Some of the hormones that affect fertility are:
• Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) – This is one of the most important hormones that is secreted by the gonadotropic cells of the anterior pituitary gland. It is very important for the regulation of the menstrual cycle and the production of healthy eggs. It regulates puberty, development, growth, and the reproductive system. In a male, any abnormality in the level of this hormone can cause either low sperm production or absence of sperm production.
• Luteinizing hormone (LH) – Secreted by the gonadotropic cells of the anterior pituitary gland, this hormone, like the FSH is also responsible for proper sexual development and functioning. This also prompts the release of the egg. Similar to FSH, a correct hormone level of LH is also important for the desired sperm production.
• Estrogen – produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissues this hormone plays a significant role in both male and female sexual and reproductive health. It is responsible for the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system, and the development of female characteristics such as public hair and breasts. It also functions in the stimulation of the growth of egg follicles, lubrication of the vagina, the thickness of the vaginal wall, and ceasing of lactation after weaning.
• Progesterone – This hormone helps in preparing the endometrium for pregnancy. It also helps in thickening the lining of the endometrium for the fertilized egg and prevents the contraction of muscles of the uterus which could result in the rejection of the egg. When fertilization does not occur and pregnancy does not result, the progesterone levels lower resulting in menstruation. If conception is successful, this hormone helps in the growth of the fetus. On the development of the placenta, the hormone level remains elevated so that ovulation does not occur during the period of conception.
• Prolactin – Produced by the pituitary gland, this hormone is responsible for the development of breasts and lactation. However, it also ensures that your menstrual cycle remains regular which is an important factor when you are planning to conceive. In men, high levels of prolactin in the blood can lead to hyperprolactinemia, which can induce hypogonadism. This can cause decreased ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, oligospermia, etc.
• TSH, T3, and T4 – TSH is a pituitary hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4. Any abnormality in the production of these hormones can result in thyroid disorders, and thyroid disorders can adversely affect the fertility rate. It can cause frequent miscarriages, ovulatory disorders, irregular cycles, preterm birth, etc. The connection between the thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and female reproductive system is a delicate network and if there is an issue with either the thyroid or the adrenal gland, pregnancy can become challenging. In men, any abnormalities in the levels of these hormones can cause decreased sperm count, erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, abnormal testicular function, or poor quality of semen.
Hormonal imbalance symptoms
If you have been planning to conceive and the efforts were to no avail despite multiple attempts, it could be an alarming sign for you to get your hormone levels checked. You can watch for certain symptoms to identify if you might be having issues with your hormones. Some of these symptoms include:
• Premenstrual syndrome.
• Irregular periods.
• Early menopause.
• Menorrhagia (prolonged, heavy bleeding)
• Amenorrhea (Absence of menstruation).
• Hot flashes.
Very little can be done in terms of lifestyle changes to regulate your hormone levels. It is wise to consult a specialist to get a confirmatory diagnosis if your hormones are the culprit in your failed attempts at conceiving.