What Do Your FSH Levels Mean?

All these TTC terms are confusing! What are FSH levels exactly?
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ByLaurence A. Jacobs, MD, reproductive endocrinologist, Fertility Centers of Illinois
Fertility Specialist
Updated
Mar 2017
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FSH, or your follicle-stimulating hormone, is something you’ll likely become intimately familiar with if you’re looking to start a family (especially with help from a fertility specialist). The hormone is manufactured in your brain by the pituitary gland. Its primary job is to control the ovaries and help to develop follicles (egg sacs). The pituitary gland can sense when your egg supplies start to run low and start to produce higher amounts of FSH in an effort to drive ovaries to produce more follicles.

Fertility experts sometimes use FSH levels to measure your egg supply. They’ll typically take an FSH measurement on the second, third or fourth days of your cycle. If FSH levels are high, that’s a sign that your brain is trying to stimulate the development of the egg sacs by overproducing FSH. Generally a level over 15 mlU/ml is a sign that you probably have a low egg supply. The higher your FSH, the closer you may be to menopause and, therefore, the lower your odds of successfully conceiving with IVF using your own eggs.

Know this: While FSH levels were once one of the go-to measures for helping to judge a woman’s ability to conceive, the test is not used as often today, because the levels themselves can fluctuate widely from month to month. A more precise test used instead is the Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), which measures levels of a protein hormone produced by cells of growing follicles. Fertility doctors consider this test a more accurate method of determining egg supply.

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