Guest blog by Sylvia Kang, co-founder and CEO of Mira. Mira is the first FDA and CE registered comprehensive women’s health monitoring platform with 99% of accuracy in clinical trials.
A thorough understanding of hormone tracking and fertility is important when trying to conceive. Reproductive hormones tell you all you need to know when it comes to your fertility. Tracking your fertility hormones can give you essential information to help you conceive, maintain a healthy pregnancy, and deliver a healthy child. Let’s discuss how your hormones work together to help promote your fertility.
Quick Look at Hormones
- Follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) in the bloodstream can reduce the chances of conceiving.
- Abnormal estradiol hormone levels — a form of estrogen, can increase the risk of miscarriage and pregnancy complications, and reduce chances of in vitro fertilization (IVF) success.
- Sufficient amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) are needed to stimulate the ovary and trigger ovulation. LH can also be the root of many fertility issues.
- The Progesterone hormone prepares your uterus(womb) nurture a fertilized egg up to birth.
- hCG is responsible for developing your placenta, protecting the fetus, and helping it get much needed nutrients.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Menstrual Cycle
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the growth of your ovarian follicles. These are little sacs that secrete hormones to help regulate each stage of your menstrual cycle.
Most women start with about 300,000 to 400,000 ovarian follicles when starting puberty. During ovulation, a follicle releases a mature egg that’s ready to be fertilized. While many follicles are developed in each menstrual cycle, yet most of the time only one follicle will release an egg. On rare occasions two eggs are released and fertilized in the same cycle, resulting in non-identical or fraternal twins.
FSH is also helpful for male fertility. It can influence the development of testes and promotes sperm production.
FSH levels fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle, so a ‘normal’ FSH level will vary on a day to day basis. This is why basic fertility testing is done on day 3 of your menstrual cycle — day 1 is the first day your period starts.
LSH Hormone Tracking
Blood Sample: A medical professional would use a needle to take a blood small sample from a vein running down your arm. This can be slightly discomforting, yet very short process. Some experience mild bruising, but it shouldn’t last more than a few days at the most.
Urine Sample: Your doctor may request a given pee sample, or multiple over a one day period. Because your FSH levels fluctuate throughout the day, Multiple samples in a 24-hour period may give a more accurate display of your FSH levels.
Reasons your doctor may test for FSH:
- Low sperm count
- Low sex drive
- Irregular periods
- Struggling to get pregnant
- Pituitary or hypothalamus disorders
Estradiol and Reproductive Quality
A doctor may test estradiol levels alongside your FSH test, on day 3 of your menstrual cycle. A women’s ovary quality and egg quality can be evaluated based on estradiol levels, a form of estrogen. Abnormally high levels of estradiol could suggest tumors in the ovaries and hyperthyroidism. Elevated levels are not a surefire sign of a fertility issue, but elevated levels are strongly related to decreased response to fertility treatments, such as ovulation induction medication and IVF procedures.
Low levels of estriol hormone, could be a sign of polycystic ovarian syndrome(PCOS). PCOS is a type of hormone imbalance that is said to be the leading cause of infertility in women. There are many symptoms of this hormone imbalance that vary between women.
Estradiol helps with the growth and development of female sex organs, including the:
- Fallopian Tube
Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Ovulation
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is often referred to as the fertility tracking hormone. It triggers the release of a mature egg from the ovary. If your egg gets fertilized, then LH levels will help stimulate the corpus luteum: a mass of cells that produce the progesterone hormone during early pregnancy. Progesterone prepares your womb to help develop your fertilized egg.
You can find higher levels of LH in urine as early as 24 hours before ovulation occurs. This is one of the most important hormones to track for couples trying to conceive, because your most fertile days are right before and during ovulation. Thus, it can help plan intercourse to help increase your chances of pregnancy.
Some people track their hormone levels in urine using over-the-counter LH tests, also known as fertility monitors. Once the LH reaches a certain amount, there will be a checkmark/smiley face to let you know you’re ovulating. Others may opt for a more precise kit like the Mira Fertility Tracker that gives a specific hormone concentration level to more accurately predict their fertile window.
Some people decide to detect physical symptoms of an LH surge, as an alternative to ovulation tests. For instance, right before ovulation occurs, your cervical mucus will be a stretchy, syrupy-like substance. Basal body temperature is another method people use. There is a slight dip in body temperature right before ovulation. Then, after ovulation basal body temperature levels increase by a mere 1°F to .1°F.
Tracking physical symptoms of ovulation such as cervical position, cervical mucus, libido increases is ineffective. Symptoms of ovulation vary from women to women, based on genetics, lifestyle, diet etc.
Progesterone and Conception
You need sufficient amounts of progesterone while your pregnant to avoid miscarriage, uterine bleeding, and spotting. If you end up getting pregnant, progesterone hormone levels peak around one week after ovulation. If you don’t get pregnant, then estrogen levels will decline and your period will begin.
Progestin, is a man-made version of progesterone that is often used in birth control pills. It helps prevent pregnancy by tricking your reproductive system into functioning as if you’re already pregnant.
Your ovaries produce progesterone hormones after ovulation. Progesterone prepares your uterus for a fertilized egg about 12 to 16 days after the start of your menstrual cycle. It does this by thickening the lining of your womb. Your progesterone levels peak about a week after ovulation.
A doctor may recommend a serum progesterone test to measure progesterone levels in your bloodstream if you’re having trouble getting pregnant. Tracking progesterone levels can give them an idea of whether or not you are ovulating. Monitoring progesterone levels can help doctors diagnose other fertility problems, such as being at risk for miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Your doctor may collect a blood sample to be sent to a laboratory, or send you to another site to get your blood sampled. Some people use saliva testing kits to measure a surge in hormone levels after ovulation, which is frequently debated in the medical community. One of the common reasons is that a mere 2-5% of estrogen hormones in the blood are not bound to proteins.
Therefore, you’re not tracking all of your progesterone production. Saliva samples can be done with an at-home kit, or by a doctor. To be safe, all saliva testing results should be verified by a medical professional.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) and Pregnancy
The hCG hormones used to track pregnancy. Every woman produces a really tiny amount of hCG throughout a normal cycle. After you conceive, a developing placenta starts to produce hCG to help protect the growth of your fetus.
Your placenta is a useful organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy. During pregnancy your blood travels through the placenta, which then filters nutrients to the baby through your umbilical cord.
This allows maternal blood, to stay separate from the blood of the fetus, protecting the baby against outside infections.
You can purchase a pregnancy test to detect hCG over-the-counter. Pregnancy tests take seven to 12 days to track after conceiving. Testing too early after ovulation may result in a false-negative. Although, false-positives from pregnancy tests are extremely rare.
Mira is launching the Estrogen and Progesterone test wands by early 2020. It makes the Mira Analyzer a comprehensive women’s health home monitoring platform to also include testing and analysis for ovarian reserve, fetal health and miscarriage, menopause and hormone imbalances. This one-stop solution gives women a complete picture of their cycle and health.
Sylvia Kang is the co-founder and CEO of Mira. Mira is the first FDA and CE registered comprehensive women’s health monitoring platform with 99% of accuracy in clinical trials. Mira tracks cycles, predicts ovulation, monitors fetal health, measures ovarian reserve and detects menopause at home, using the hospital-leveled technology within a palm-sized device. The data automatically syncs to the Mira app. The AI learns personal health patterns. The telemedicine connects users with doctors.
Sylvia has significant general management background. Before she started Mira, she was on business director roles in a Fortune 500 life science company, running a $100M global business. Sylvia holds an MBA from Cornell University, and a MS in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University. Sylvia is also a Concert Pianist. She has won multiple international piano competitions in France, China, and Hong Kong.