Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is vital for regulation of reproductive processes of the human body. FSH is produced by pituitary gland and regulates growth and development as well the pubertal maturation, in females and men. In women, FSH promotes estrogen production, ovarian follicles growth and controls ovulation.
High FSH levels induce ovulation, causing an egg to be released by the ovary. After release of egg, FSH levels decrease down and in turn estrogen level goes up.
Importance Of FSH Levels In Detecting Menopause
Increasing FSH levels – Lack of ovulation
Menopause that marks the end of menstrual cycle is identified by high FSH levels due to lack of ovulation. During menopause, ovarian follicles are no more able to release eggs, even under high FSH levels. There is no induction of ovulation and rise of estrogen levels. Hence, the body signals pituitary gland to secrete more FSH in order to induce ovulation and promote estrogen production. But, in spite of high FSH levels, growth of ovarian follicles and ovulation could not be stimulated during menopause.
Consistent High Fsh Levels – Approaching Menopause
A consistent high FSH levels indicates that ovaries are failing for ovulation and the woman is approaching towards menopause. Therefore, FSH levels are considered as the best marker for menopause determination. Menopause is also characterized by low levels of estrogen that fail to rise due to failure of ovulation.
FSH Test Significance For Menopause Confirmation
FSH levels can be estimated with FSH testing using urine saliva or blood. The over the counter kits are helpful in detection of FSH levels using saliva or urine samples. The urine tests are around 90% accurate and saliva tests are not that reliable as the results from saliva tests is easily influenced by certain factors like smoking and oral contraceptives use. The FSH blood test can be easily conducted and most reliable, when repeated after a gap of month to rule out any testing errors.
FSH test is performed to differentiate whether a woman is showing premenstrual symptoms or experiencing irregular menstruation or is influenced by other inhibiting factors. High FSH levels certainly mean that body is trying to ovulate, but is unable to do so. FSH test also distinguish whether high FSH levels are the cause of primary or secondary ovarian failure.
Primary ovarian failure is the natural failure of ovaries, while secondary failure is the result of underlying ailments of pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. High levels of FSH can also be the result of polycystic ovarian syndrome and infertility, in addition to menopause. FSH test is also done to determine early development of sexual behaviour in children as well as infertility in men.
Repeat FSH Testing – A Necessity
While analysing the FSH levels, one should be aware that the levels of follicle stimulating hormone varies with age. In menstruating women, FSH normal values range from 4.7 mIU/ml to 21.5 mIU/ml and in post menopausal women, levels range from 25.8 mIU/ml to 134.8 mIU/ml.
If FSH levels come 25 or higher, then woman is probably undergoing peri or pre menopausal phase and if levels are around 50mIU/ml, then woman is approaching menopause stage.
Certain factors, like stress, diet, hormone replacement therapy and use of birth control pills may affect the test results and these have to be taken into account, while performing FSH testing. A single FSH value should not be considered as a parameter of menopause, but repeated FSH testing should be performed for confirmation.