Hormone imbalance occurs when your body has too much, too little or out-of-sync production of a hormone or hormones that are important for regulating bodily processes. The proper balance of hormones is essential for efficient reproductive cycles such as the ovulation process in women and the overall system of conception.
Hormonal imbalances are the leading cause of female infertility. Disorders, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and anovulation, can be the result of a hormone imbalance. Men may also experience hormonal disorders that affect their fertility but is a less common infertility factor in men than it is in women.
Hormonal imbalance is an incorrect quantity of one or more hormones in the bloodstream. The timing of the hormone(s) release, interactions with other hormones and ability to respond through cell receptors are also important for hormonal balance.
An irregular balance of the hormones associated with reproductive health in one or both partners can make conception and pregnancy difficult. Hormonal imbalances are the leading cause of infertility in women, but are often treatable with lifestyle changes and medications.
It helps to understand how hormones affect fertility. Your hormones play a pivotal role in your reproduction, particularly those hormones that control your menstrual cycle. In order for a pregnancy to occur, hormones in your body must signal and regulate the growth of an egg within your ovaries, the release of the newly formed egg into the fallopian tube and the thickening of the uterine lining for implantation. If the newly released egg is fertilised by sperm, the resulting embryo will then travel to the uterus for implantation.
The development of sperm is also regulated by hormones within the male body. If one or more hormones are absent or irregular in quantity, it can delay or prevent any of these processes from occurring, making pregnancy difficult to achieve.
For you as a woman, we pointed out that some of the most commonly diagnosed conditions and hormonal imbalances that could lead to hormonal imbalance are anovulation, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hyperprolactinemia.
These conditions often result in infrequent or absent ovulation, which complicates an individual’s or couple’s ability to become pregnant.
Often times, hormonal imbalance is not diagnosed until you experience infertility. You may experience symptoms ranging from absent or irregular periods, spotting between periods, heavy or painful periods and unexplained weight gain among others.
A man is less likely to have a hormonal imbalance that contributes to infertility than a woman, but men may experience symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, reduced body hair growth, thinning hair or male pattern hair loss. If you manifest any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss with a reproductive endocrinologist if infertility is suspected.
Did you know that the hormones surging through your body influence or even control many of the most important bodily processes—including the ability to get pregnant? This is what happens and because you can’t see or consciously adjust the levels of these critical compounds, it can be profoundly frustrating when you find yourself struggling to conceive if you suspect that a hormone irregularity may be at play.
This may be stressful and upsetting, but it’s important to remember that one in four Nigerian couples of reproductive age will experience difficulty conceiving. In many of these cases, hormonal imbalances are part of the problem.
Hormones are varied, invisible, and interactive. So getting a firm grasp on a hormonal imbalance and its potential impact on fertility can be challenging, if not downright frustrating , so along the journey towards conception, knowing how your hormones impact on your fertility and, what you can do to minimise or eliminate issues, is a wise step.
The number of different hormones that impact on your fertility is one of the things that can make addressing hormone-related infertility particularly challenging. The good news is that in many cases, taking the right measures will balance the hormones, which will ultimately lead to easier conception.
The two most common causes of fertility-related hormonal imbalance are thyroid dysfunction and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Either condition can make getting and staying pregnant without medical intervention more difficult.
Hormones that will most significantly impact on your ability to become pregnant apart from your thyroid hormones is prolactin, which is critical to the production of breast milk.
But it also plays an essential role in becoming pregnant in the first place. If your prolactin levels are abnormal, you will likely experience cycle irregularity, which in turn can cause issues with ovulation and, ultimately, with conception.
What you need to know is that every woman is different. While some who have a hormonal imbalance will not show any outward signs, the majority do have one or more symptoms. It’s important to never use the presence or absence of one or more these signs to self-diagnose.
How can hormonal imbalance impact on your fertility? With so many different hormones impacting on your ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy, it becomes easier to understand that a hormonal imbalance can cause an equal array of fertility challenges.
Two of the most common fertility issues linked to hormonal imbalance are ovulatory dysfunction and short luteal phases.
If you have a luteal phase shorter than 10 days, a fertilised embryo may not be able to implant, preventing pregnancy, and we recommend you come in for a simple fertility evaluation.
The best thing you can do if you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, is to begin tracking your cycles and schedule a simple fertility evaluation with a specialist.
Some women elect to chart their basal body temperature, which generally rises in accordance with ovulation. While you can use this method, we don’t generally recommend it. It’s tedious and yet, for all of the effort, often doesn’t provide much useful information.
As you age, many fertility-related hormone levels change substantially. FSH, in particular, commonly increases as women start to have decreased ovarian function with age. Because fertility potential is impacted most by a woman’s age, early intervention is needed to increase your chances of pregnancy.
Note that hormones impact much more than your reproductive system. Even if you’re not currently pursuing parenthood, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect a hormonal imbalance.
There are various ways we can treat a hormonal imbalance and increase the likelihood of conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy. Treatments for hormonal imbalances are highly customised, as each hormonal imbalance is different. Medication is commonly used to restore thyroid function, normalise prolactin levels, induce ovulation and trigger the release of a mature egg
Hormone levels can also be impacted by weight, so a weight-loss treatment plan may help naturally to normalise your fertility.
The bottom line is that hormonal imbalances in men and women can be determined through simple blood or urine analysis. Hormonal imbalance is usually treatable and should be treated whether or not you are looking to become pregnant. Treatments may include medications to restore normal thyroid function, normalise hormone levels, induce ovulation or trigger a fully mature egg.
-Dr Abayomi Ajayi @ Punch Newspaper