How Hormonal Imbalance Affects Your Fertility?
- Irregular menstrual cycle, infertility, weight gain are common signs of hormonal imbalance in women
- For women with menopausal symptoms, synthetic hormones are safe and effective
- With age your hormones get imbalanced causing unpleasant and serious health issues
- Men and women are both equally affected with an imbalance in their hormones
Hormones are chemical substances produced by our endocrine glands. They perform functions like controlling and coordinating various body activities. There are two types of glands in your body namely endocrine and exocrine glands .
Exocrine glands (have ducts) secret hormones into their ducts and these hormones are then released into blood. Endocrine glands (ductless) are those which secrete hormones into our blood directly so that they can be carried to specific organs and tissues to show their functions.
There are 8 major glands in your body and following are their names and hormones they secrete :
1. Pituitary gland: This gland has anterior and posterior parts.
Hormones secreted by anterior part are:
- Thyroid Stimulating TSH
- Adrenocorticotropic ACTH
- Follicle-stimulating FSH
- Luteinizing hormone LH
- Prolactin PRL,
- And Growth Hormone GH.
Posterior part secretes:
- Antidiuretic hormone ADH, and
2. Pineal: It secretes Melatonin
3. Thymus: Thymosins are secreted by this gland.
4. Thyroid: It secretes Thyroxine T4, Triiodothyronine T3 and Calcitonin. Parathyroid is part of the thyroid gland which is 4 in number and they secrete Parathyroid PTH hormone.
5. Adrenal gland: It has two parts cortex and medulla.
- Adrenal cortex secretes: Glucocorticoids (cortisol)
- Mineralocorticoids (aldosterone)
- Sex hormones
- Adrenal Medulla secretes
- Epinephrine and
6. Pancreas: Insulin and Glucagon are the two hormones secreted by pancreas.
7. Testes: These are male glands that produce Androgens (testosterone)
8. Ovaries: these are female gonads producing Estrogen and Progesterone.
Importance of Hormones
Hormones that are secreted by the above glands are in microscopic amounts and even with this minute amount; we can experience major kinds of changes in our body. Even a slight increase or decrease in your hormonal level can lead to various disease conditions. We discussed at the beginning of this article that hormones are the chemical messengers and they perform a variety of functions in your body like :
- Regulating growth and development
- Reproductive health and growth
- Regulating sexual functions
- Digestive and Metabolic functions
- Maintaining body temperature and thirst
- Cognitive functions
- Mood manipulation
Your body undergoes changes that can be natural sometimes while the other times it is not. There are few factors that can affect our endocrine glands and organs such as puberty, ageing, genetics, environmental pollutants, medications of herbal, opioids, steroids, and certain disease conditions .
In this article
How Hormonal Imbalance Affects Your Fertility?
When your body starts producing too much or too little or inconsistent amounts of hormones that are needed for regulating routine body functions, then an imbalance of hormones occurs. Your whole body including the reproductive system runs smoothly if there is a perfect balance of hormones. There is a negative impact on your fertility and your conception if you have hormonal imbalance.
The common and leading cause of your infertility is your hormonal imbalance. Ovulation and conception can happen smoothly if there is proper balance of your hormones.
If you are a woman, you may face conditions like (PCOS) poly cystic ovarian syndrome and anovulation due to improper balance of your body hormones. If you are a man, then you may experience low testosterone levels that affect your fertility.
What is Hormonal Imbalance in Women and Men?
Our body makes use of 50 different hormones to maintain bodily functions like growth, temperature and metabolism. Infertility factor is more common in women than in men due to hormonal imbalance and can be easily treated with medications and lifestyle changes in women. For proper and balanced working of hormones, there are few factors that are linked such as timing at which hormone is released, its interaction with other hormones, and its ability to respond through the receptors.
Pregnancy is difficult if you or your partner have irregularity in reproductive hormones.
The hormones that control your menstrual cycle play a major role in your reproduction process. For pregnancy to occur, your hormones should trigger and regulate the growth of egg in the ovary, then the egg is to be released into fallopian tubes followed by thickening of the uterine lining for implantation. If by any chance your egg meets the sperm of your partner and gets fertilized forming an embryo, then this embryo will travel to the uterus and get implanted.
If there is any disturbance in either one or more hormones that are required for your pregnancy process, then pregnancy is delayed or is difficult to achieve. Commonly known conditions and hormonal imbalances that can affect ovulation are PCOS, anovulation and hyperprolactinemia. They result in ovulatory problems and make your pregnancy complicated.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance
Many times, hormonal imbalance is not found until you may face trouble in getting pregnant. You can easily identify some of the signs shown by your imbalanced hormonal levels and these include:
As your reproductive system is linked to varied types of endocrine organs and cycles, you are at risk of showing different types of hormonal related issues
Medical conditions that are said to be related to your irregularity of hormones in women are:
- PCOS Polycystic Ovarian syndrome
- Hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills
- Early menopause
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
- Ovarian cancer
You may also experience one or more of the following symptoms.
- Absence of irregularity of your menstrual periods
- Spotting that is seen in between regular periods
- Periods that is associated with heavy bleeding and pain
- Sudden increase of body weight with cause that is not clear
- Abnormal hair growth on your face, chest, neck and back
- Irritability and mood swings
- Dryness of vagina
- Acne on face and upper back (mostly seen in PCOS condition)
- Constipation and few times diarrhea
- Enlarged clitoris
- Voice changes
- Hot flushes and night sweating
You can also experience some kind of imbalances in your hormonal levels anytime during your life. There are few natural reasons for your imbalances like your puberty and ageing process.
Because of your endocrine organs and cycles, you may few times face issues and some of the medical conditions that result in the irregularity of your hormones are:
- Cancer of prostate
- Hypogonadism - is the condition of your low levels of testosterone. It is important for masculine growth and for puberty .
There is less chance of having infertility factors due to hormonal imbalance in men, but some can still experience one or of the following symptoms.
- Low sperm count
- Weight gain and Brain Fog
- Reduced muscle mass
- Problems with erection
- Reduction of body hair
- Thinning of hair
- Tenderness of breast or sometimes overgrowth of breast tissue known as Gynecomastia, which is usually due to increased estrogen level .
- Anxiety and Depression
- Osteoporosis- where bone density is reduced and you are more prone to fractured bones.
If you experience any of the above symptoms along with difficulty in getting pregnant, it is better to consult your fertility specialist.
Female hormones and their role in fertility
There is a greater impact of hormonal imbalances on your reproductive health and on the outcome of your family planning treatments. For a better understanding of how hormonal imbalance will affect your fertility, you should have a basic knowledge of the functions performed by various hormones on your reproductive health.
- Follicle stimulating hormone FSH: This is a gonadotropic hormone released by the pituitary gland and has a key role in your reproductive cycle. It is the hormone that controls your menstrual cycle and causes your ovaries to release an egg. Your FSH levels keep changing throughout the month while the highest level of FSH can be noticed just before the release of an egg from your ovaries.
- Luteinizing hormone LH: It is also a gonadotropic hormone that is produced from the pituitary gland and plays a key role in regulating your menstrual cycle and promotes the release of an egg from the follicles.
- Progesterone: It is released by your adrenal glands and also by ovaries if there is a demand. If you have lower progesterone levels, then it may lead to your infertility. It has a leading role in preparing your body for pregnancy as it helps in thickening of your uterus lining for implantation of a fertilized egg. If there is no fertilization of the egg, then your progesterone level drops and you will start to menstruate. This hormone is also important when you are breastfeeding your baby and for your breast development.
- Estrogen: Once LH and FSH are secreted they cause your ovaries to secrete Estrogen. Your uterus will let the embryo to get implanted if there is only a small amount of estrogen. But if there is too much of this hormone, then implantation of the embryo is not possible due to changes that occur in the implantation-related genes of the uterus.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone GnRH: your hypothalamus part of the brain secretes this hormone. GnRH causes the production of FSH and LH.
- Testosterone: Though it is a major hormone seen in men, you too have it in small amounts and is secreted by ovaries. Low levels of testosterone cause low sex drive and can negatively affect your FSH, which is required for your reproduction process. Higher testosterone levels result in fertility issues and are seen in PCOS condition.
Male hormones and their role in fertility
Your hormones play a crucial role in the overall harmony of your physical and reproductive health. If you have fertility issues, it is necessary for you to understand about the hormones that are involved and the role that is played by them in the process of reproduction.
- Testosterone: This is an important male sex hormone that controls your sexual and reproductive health. It is secreted by Leydig cells of testes and this hormone stimulates your sperm production.
- If your testosterone levels are less than normal, then you may have low sperm count or Hypogonadism and these low sperms cannot make your partner pregnant. You may also have reduced sexual drive if this hormone level is low.
- If there are higher testosterone levels, they can be converted into Estrogen, a female hormone, causing the development of female characteristics within you like shrinking of your testicles, enlargement of breast and mood swings.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH): It causes your testes to produce testosterone hormone so that it can do the needed functions. Deficient levels of FSH can result in low LH and this low LH causes a decreased sex drive, low sperm count, due to the absence of testosterone and result in infertility. So it should be kept at a balanced level.
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): FSH is the hormone that controls your sperm production by working in association with Sertoli cells and its levels remain constant. FSH production is regulated by Testosterone and inhibin and they are most important to making your sperms.
- Your higher FSH levels show that there is a testicular failure and that your testosterone levels are low. This low testosterone prevents healthy production and maturation of outstanding sperms and thus leads to infertility.
- Lower FSH levels lead to less sperm production, which is a major reason for not able to make your partner pregnant.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH): Your hypothalamus secretes GnRH, before your LH and FSH are released. This GnRH will then cause the release of FSH and LH from your pituitary gland. Low GnRH production is very rare, but when it happens it causes loss of sperm production and lowered hormonal secretion from your tests.
Treatment for hormonal imbalance
Treatment for your hormonal related problems will depend on the cause. There are medical treatment and natural home remedies that are available to overcome your hormonal imbalance.
Medical Treatment for Hormonal Imbalance
Treatment differs from person to person. treatment options that are available for your hormonal imbalance are:
You should get treatment for your hormonal imbalance whether you may or may not plan for pregnancy. Treatments for you include medications for proper functioning of thyroid, induce ovulation or stimulate a mature egg.
Some of the commonly followed treatments are:
- Vaginal estrogen: You can reduce your symptoms of vaginal dryness or pain while having sexual intercourse that happens due to your estrogen levels changes, your doctor will recommend creams that contain estrogen. This cream is to be applied directly over the vaginal tissue that feels dry. Other forms like estrogen tablets and vaginal rings are also available to manage vaginal dryness. This mode of rings or cream reduces the risk of estrogen that directly travels in blood to reach the organ as it happens with systemic estrogen treatment.
- Hormonal birth control: If you are trying to get pregnant and have irregular periods due to hormonal imbalance then the following may help to regulate your menstrual cycles. Commonly used birth controls include vaginal rings, birth control pills and patches, intrauterine device IUD, and birth control shot. If you are not planning to get pregnant then medications in the form of estrogens and progesterone can help to regulate your irregular menstrual cycle and related symptoms.
- Anti-androgen medications: Androgen is usually a male sex hormone, but also seen in females. If it is present in high levels then you may experience problems and in such case you will be given medications to reduce the effect of increased androgens that include hair growth on face, severe acne and excessive loss of hair.
- Eflornithine or Vaniqa: If you suffer from excess hair growth on your face then this cream helps you in removing the hair. This cream works by minimizing the growth of new hair and does not affect the already present hair.
- Hormonal replacement therapy: If you suffer from severe menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, your doctor may suggest you to take some hormonal medicines that can temporarily help to deal with your symptoms.
- Clomiphene and Letrozole or Femara: Your doctor will trigger your ovulation by using Clomiphene if you have PCOS and you are trying for pregnancy. Ovulation is also triggered by giving Letrozole or Femara and injections of gonadotropins to help improve your chances of pregnancy, if you suffer infertility due to PCOS.A meta-analysis study was done to compare the effects of Letrozole LE and Clomiphene citrate CC for inducing ovulation in women with PCOS. In this study, it was indicated that Letrozole LE is superior to CC in causing increased ovulation, pregnancy and live birth rate in women with PCOS .
- Assisted Reproductive Technology: If it is harder for you to get conceived due to complications caused by PCOS condition, then (IVF) Invitro-fertilization can help you to have a baby of your own.
You can manage your symptoms of hormonal imbalance by taking:
- Testosterone medications: Symptoms of low testosterone like Hypogonadism and delayed puberty can be managed by using gels and patches containing testosterone.
- BHRT Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy: This is a commonly preferred natural method of Testosterone replacement therapy. BioTE testosterone pellets are made up of testosterone that is chemically similar to the one your body produces. This method involves treating your low testosterone levels by means of a subcutaneous pellet. These pellets are meant to provide you with the required amount of testosterone for a period of 5 to 6 months.
- Medical Estrogen blockers: They are also known as estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and are commonly used in treatment of breast cancer. They are found to be effective in treating low testosterone levels including low sperm count and Gynecomastia.
- They can help in testosterone production and includes:
- Tamoxifen- comes in pill form or as a liquid.
Common treatment for both men and women with hormonal imbalance include:
- Treating low blood sugar levels with metformin, which is a drug used to treat type 2 Diabetes.
- Treating symptoms of hypothyroidism with the help of medicines containing Levothyroxine. These include Synthroid and Levothroid.
Natural Remedies for Dealing with Hormonal Imbalance
Making a few changes in your lifestyle, weight management, and a moderate level of dietary modifications can help to balance your hormones and bring about a successful pregnancy.
Using naturally available supplements in managing hormonal imbalance was practised by our ancestors for thousands of years. Natural remedies are less proven to help with treating the causes of imbalanced hormone levels. But a slight change of lifestyle makes a lot of difference in maintaining the harmony of your hormones.
Your symptoms related to the irregularity of hormonal secretion can be managed by natural supplements like:
- Ginseng is widely known to handle irritability, sleep disturbances and anxiety that are related to menopause.
- For men with erectile dysfunction ginseng and maca are beneficial.
- Hot flushes caused by menopause can be handled by black cohosh, dong quai, red clover, and evening primrose. A comparative study was done on 80 postmenopausal women having hot flashes to show the efficiency of black cohosh and evening primerose oil. It was seen that black cohosh was more effective than evening primrose oil in reducing the number of hot flushes and improved quality of life .
You can adopt moderate changes in your lifestyle that are likely to reduce symptoms caused by imbalanced hormones. Some of such lifestyle changes are:
- Keep a check on body weight: See that your body weight is always under control. Increased weight or obesity is associated with infertility and many other issues.
- Regular exercising regimen: Cardio and strengthening training like increasing your heart rate to an active level for 30 minutes each day by doing aerobics or brisk walking, can increase your estrogen levels.
- Have a nutritious diet: Try vegetables from the cabbage family like broccoli, as these cruciferous vegetables are rich in DIM, a phytonutrient that helps in estrogen metabolism.
- Follow hygienic methods in washing face, neck, chest and back.
- Manage mild to moderate acne with medicated gels, creams or gels.
- Avoid spicy rich foods, or junk foods and staying in warm weather for more time that may trigger hot flashes.
- Stress reduction: Breathing exercises, yoga and meditation help to deal with your stress levels.
- Practicing good sleep: Do get enough sleep to balance your body and thus your hormones. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep.
- Control of sugar foods: You should limit your intake of refined sugar contents and refined carbohydrates.
- Packaged foods: It is better to get rid of packed foods and rather go for organic foods.
- Organic vegetables: Purchasing of organic vegetables helps to get rid of unnecessary pesticides.
- Using glass containers to store food, and avoid using bleach containing items to clean your house.
Your body needs hormones to perform normal functions. When there is an imbalance in these hormones, you may experience a variety of symptoms that are sometimes unmanageable. If you cannot manage your symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances, it is better to take doctor’s advice as they can cause serious complications.
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Last updated on: : 28 Sep 2020