Fertility is the natural capability to produce offspring, and depends on factors such as nutrition, sexual behavior, endocrinology, timing, and age. Women have monthly hormonal cycles (menstrual cycles) which determine when they can achieve pregnancy, while men are generally fertile continuously. Men’s fertility rate and sperm quality is affected by their health, hormones, frequency of ejaculation, and environmental factors.
Whether you’re thinking about trying, actively trying, or struggling to become pregnant, understanding your hormones is critically important. Women and men of all ages can suffer from hormone imbalances. The hormone cascade is complex and includes both sex and non-sex hormones which play a role in fertility and aging. Hormone levels can be influenced by stress, vitamin and mineral levels, infection, exposure to environmental toxins and the percentage of body fat you have.
For women, there are different stages within their menstrual cycle and, on average, women are only fertile for five to seven days during their cycle. A menstrual cycle is determined by the number of days from the first day of one period to the first day of the next. So day one of the menstrual cycle is the first full bleeding day of the period. On Day 1 of the menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone levels are low. During the follicular phase, or the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels start to rise and follicles in the egg are starting to grow. Just before ovulation, estrogen spikes signaling luteinizing hormone (LH) to be released, which stimulates the primary follicle to release the egg. The release of the egg is what we refer to as ovulation and typically occurs in the middle of a woman’s cycle around day 12 to 14.
The luteal phase is the second half of the menstrual cycle. This is when progesterone starts to rise to help prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and menses begin. An inadequate, early, or late progesterone surge in the luteal phase can affect the ability to conceive. As well, menstrual cycle length may affect your fertility.
When you are testing sex hormones there are a few options for testing to determine if your hormones are balanced, and in the case that they are not, these results help to guide what the best treatment option is to help get you back into balance and on track for conception. Talk to your healthcare professional about family planning and your testing options today.