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High FSH Myths and Facts
If you are trying to become pregnant, you have probably noticed that lots of attention is being paid to how high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels affect fertility. But lots of attention equals lots of information, and it can be hard to figure out what’s true—and what’s not. Here are some common myths and facts about high FSH to help you out.
FSH is vital to fertility.
FACT. Without FSH, your follicles are not stimulated to produce eggs and you do not ovulate.
So, if FSH is vital for fertility, high FSH must be better than low FSH?
MYTH. If your ovarian reserve (the number of eggs you have left in your ovaries) is low, normal FSH levels will not lead to a follicle being developed for ovulation. The body produces more FSH to try harder to get a follicle going. So high FSH levels indicate that you are having trouble ovulating and your body is working very hard to try to make it happen but usually not succeeding.
If I have high FSH, I’m definitely in menopause.
MYTH. Though menopause is the most common cause of high FSH levels, if you are younger than late 30s or 40 then high FSH levels are considered abnormal. Your high FSH levels could be the result a number of conditions including premature menopause, premature ovarian failure, or (rarely) congenital adrenal hyperplasia or a pituitary tumor. Your fertility doctor will help you determine what the cause might be.
High FSH means I’m never going to get pregnant.
MYTH. This depends on exactly how high your FSH levels are as well as how old you are. Slightly increased FSH levels have only a slightly reduced birth rate, but as FSH levels rise, birth rates fall. Though younger women may not have more eggs, the eggs are often of higher quality, which can makes them more successful in achieving pregnancy. But it is important to understand that high FSH levels usually make it much more difficult to get pregnant, even with fertility medications and IVF. Your fertility doctor can help you understand what your levels mean for your fertility treatment options.
High FSH levels can mean I’m not a great candidate for fertility treatments.
FACT. Women with very high FSH levels are not usually considered good candidates for treatment with fertility medications. This is because their ovarian reserve is often very low and thus, no matter how much the ovaries are stimulated, they are going to be unable to produce eggs. This means that IVF is also often not successful. Again, this depends on your age and what your FSH levels are. Many women have success with IVF with donor eggs.
My FSH is normal, so it is definitely not the problem.
MYTH. If your FSH levels are normal or low but your estrogen levels are high, the estrogen may be artificially lowering the FSH levels. You will probably have your estrogen levels tested at the same time your FSH levels are tested to see if this is the case.
High FSH levels can be lowered.
This one’s not so clear-cut. Nothing in Western medicine so far has succeeded in lowering FSH levels. But many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) claim that they are able to lower FSH using herbs, acupuncture and dietary changes. Always talk to your fertility doctor before you make major changes in your lifestyle or try herbs or other supplements.