From regulating the menstrual cycle to helping support an early pregnancy, here's what you need to know about a few of the major players - estrogen, progesterone, and LH - that influence your fertility.
Hormones are much more than the mysterious chemicals that make you happy, or sad, or both in a thirty-second span. They are your body’s messengers, and play a part in regulating just about every function in your body, not the least of which is your fertility.
Although there are many hormones involved in each of your bodily processes, we’ve chosen the three that are most commonly associated with fertility and regulating the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
The main female sex hormones, estrogens (which is actually a group of hormones) are largely responsible for helping your body regulate the menstrual cycle. Estrogen (in the form of estradiol) tends to be relatively low during the beginning of the cycle before rising during the proliferative phase, in order to help develop the eggs maturing in your ovarian follicles and to make your cervical fluid more fertile, among other things. Once estrogen reaches a certain threshold, it triggers a spike in luteinizing hormone, which lets your body know to release an egg.
The most important hormone for early pregnancy, progesterone, is also the one responsible for triggering a period. Progesterone rises during the luteal phase in order to help thicken the lining of the womb, and support an early pregnancy before the placenta is able to form and take over the brunt of the work. Progesterone also causes an increase in body temperature, hence the possible spike in basal body temperature in the short time following ovulation.
Progesterone levels remain elevated if you conceive in a cycle, but if no egg implants in the uterine wall, progesterone levels drop. Once progesterone drops to a certain amount, menstruation is triggered, beginning the cycle anew.
LH stands for for “luteinizing hormone.” LH is the hormone that lets one of your ovaries know to release an egg. Eggs mature in follicles in your ovaries during the proliferative phase, and once estrogen reaches a critical point, it triggers a surge of LH, which causes one of the follicles to burst, and release an egg. Ovulation tests work by searching for the presence of LH in urine, which generally remains elevated for the 24-48 hours after ovulation.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the hormones that influence your fertility and help to support a pregnancy - hormones like FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) both play a big part in the process - but these three are major players that you'll definitely want to remember.
"Hormones which may be relevant to fertility." Stork Klinik. Stork Klinik, n.d. Web.
"Reproductive Hormones." RESOLVE. Resolve: The National Infertility Association, 2017. Web.