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Is High FSH the Same as Menopause?
If your fertility doctor has told you that you have high levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), you’re probably wondering what that means. Most commonly, high FSH indicates that you are beginning menopause. This is because the number of ovarian follicles (that contain your eggs) falls as you begin to enter menopause. Because there are fewer follicles, your body produces less of a hormone called Inhibin B that brings FSH levels down. This means that your pituitary gland continues to produce FSH (and even extra FSH to try even harder to get the follicles) and your FSH levels stay high.
Conditions Related to High FSH
But does high FSH definitely mean that you are entering menopause? If you are under 35-years-old, high FSH levels are not considered normal and may indicate one of several things. It could be premature menopause (also known as premature ovarian failure or ovarian insufficiency). If this is the case, you will have other signs of menopause as well. These include not having your period and low levels of estrogen. These symptoms may be more severe than women in natural menopause. It is not the same thing as natural menopause because it begins much earlier. About one percent of women have this condition.
High FSH levels could also indicate poor ovarian reserve (also known as impaired ovarian reserve, premature ovarian aging or declining ovarian reserve). In this condition, you either have relatively few eggs left in the ovaries or impaired development or recruitment of the eggs. Recent research suggests that this condition may be a precursor to premature ovarian failure.
There are also some congenital or genetic conditions that can result in high levels of FSH, such as Turner Syndrome or Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. However, these are usually identified early in life and are unlikely to be responsible for newly diagnosed high FSH levels. Also extremely rarely, high FSH levels could be the result of a pituitary tumor.
The bottom line is that high levels of FSH are, unfortunately, an indicator of infertility or decreased fertility.