Last week’s blog on hormones got a lot of us thinking; Now we know what these hormones are, how do we act on this new knowledge? Whether or not you are trying to get pregnant right now, or in the immediate future, hormone levels are good indicators of your fertility status and health. Ask your provider about testing your hormone levels as a marker of your ovarian reserve.
Here are some key take-a-ways you need when it comes to further understanding your hormones, how to read them and how to act on your knowledge:
I got my cycle day 3 testing back, what do these hormone levels mean?
Cycle day 3 testing is a set of hormone blood levels drawn on or between cycle days 3-5. When determining cycle day 1, start with the first day of your full-flow period bleed. Labs are drawn at the beginning of your period because that is when your hormones are at their “baseline levels”- a time that is most reflective of your ovarian reserve. The labs drawn for cycle day 3 testing usually include: estradiol (E2), progesterone (P4), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), beta HCG, and sometimes a thyroid level or an anti-mullerian hormone level.
How do I interpret these levels?
E2 - should be what we call “suppressed” (or low) because your follicles are still small at this stage and will not be releasing a lot of estradiol. Levels should be < 50. If your levels are high, you might have a cyst. Consult your care provider if you have high E2 levels at your cycle day 3 testing.
P4 - Your progesterone levels, like E2, should be suppressed. That means you are looking for a lab value <1. High levels of P4 could mean you recently ovulated or you have a cyst. Again, you should consult your provider if your levels are > 3-5 at baseline testing.
LH - Your LH is your “ovulation” hormone. At baseline we look for levels that are < 12. If your levels are higher, this may be due to PCOS (if you carry that diagnosis).
Beta HCG - This should be <1 at baseline and with your period. If levels are >1, this indicates pregnancy hormone in the body. You should have a conversation with your provider if levels are >1.
FSH - This hormone is one of the primary markers of “ovarian reserve” and should be checked along with an E2. FSH may help your provider determine your ovarian reserve. FSH levels that are consistently high (>10) on your baseline labs, may indicate poor or diminished ovarian reserve. Think of it this way- high levels of FSH mean your body has to work extra hard to grow a mature egg each cycle.
I have my levels, now what?
First, set-up a time to go-over these results with your provider. At BINTO, we suggest scheduling an in-person conversation, especially if you are seeing a fertility specialist, and if you did these lab values in conjunction with other fertility testing. Let your provider review the results. If you still do not understand their review, ask them to go over a certain level again to help you further understand. If you are not seeing a fertility specialist, and you got these levels to test your fertility status, you can set-up a phone call or schedule an in-person review.
What questions might I ask if I got these levels just to check-in?
- Ask to go over each value and what the value indicates Ask if your hormone levels are in normal range for your age
- Ask about fertility and go over your timeline and options
- Ask if and when you should test these levels again
- Ask if any follow-up is required with a specialis
What questions might I ask if I got these levels because I am actively trying to conceive?
- Ask to go over each value and see how that indicates your fertility status
- Ask about how these levels might indicate fertility treatments and medication options
- Ask about if any further testing is required
It’s important for all of us to understand how our bodies function. When it comes to our menstrual cycle and fertility, that statement is especially true. Getting hormone panel testing might help you understand your fertility status, where you stand and how to make a fertility plan that fits your timeline.