“Your tests confirm your age. They’re not terrible; but they’re not great,” my gynaecologist told me. Well, der, I know how old I am, which is why I’m having these tests done to start with (is what I wanted to say to him, but I didn’t).
Trying to conceive at what is termed *cough, choke* ‘advanced’ age was never going to be easy, but I was determined to try anyway.
I knew the odds were stacked against me, being 40, but I was not deterred.
Armed with a dogged determination and the internet as my new best friend, I set out to do my research on all things having-a-child-at-the-age-of-forty-related.
I started with the FSH levels. You can go to your local GP and ask for a blood test to check your follicle-stimulating hormone levels. Or your GP can refer you to a place that will do them for you. It’s worth getting this tested, as it is the best indicator of what your ovarian reserve looks like.
What is FSH?
It is a hormone that regulates the reproductive process in women’s bodies. It stimulates the immature follicles in the ovaries, each of which surrounds an oocyte, or egg.
At the beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle there is a surge, on about day three, of FSH levels, which initiates the growth of between five and seven primordial ovarian follicles.
The FSH will also stimulate the body to produce more oestrogen, which in turn increases the production of luteinizing hormone (LH).
During this phase, a couple of days before the increase of LH levels, one of these follicles will become the most dominant.
While oestrogen levels continue to rise, FSH levels drop off again, causing the weaker follicles to die off, while the dominant follicle grows.
The high oestrogen levels continue for about six days, preparing the uterus and creating a more hospitable environment for possible sperm.
The LH levels then surge, stimulating the meiosis, or cell division, of oocytes in the dominant tertiary follicle.
Roughly 30 hours after the LH surge, the follicle ruptures, releasing an egg. This is called ovulation.
This follicular cycle lasts about 14 days, with day 1 being the first day of the menstrual cycle.
How FSH levels are measured
FSH levels should be taken between days two and three of the menstrual cycle.
There are different FSH levels for women at different ages, due to the amount of follicles we have at those stages.
It is important to remember that what is seen as a ‘normal’ FSH level for a woman of, say 41, will be abnormally high for a woman in her early 30s.
High FSH levels in a woman of ‘normal’ fertility age can be caused by a number of things:
- Premature Menopause
- Low or poor ovarian reserve – also called Diminished Ovarian Reserve
- Turner Syndrome – a chromosomal problem
Example of FSH levels at different ages
|Age (years)||FSH level in mlU/mL|
FSH levels as we age
As we get older, the number of primordial follicles in our ovaries diminishes while the Follicle-stimulating Hormone rises. A high FSH level is therefore usually an indicator of diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).
By menopause, any of the small secondary follicles that we do have remaining, no longer have FSH receptors.
What this means for fertility
The good news is that, despite high FSH levels – up to a certain point - women can still fall pregnant.
Research at the Centre for Human Reproduction (CHR) has proven that using the DHEA supplement at least 6 weeks before an IVF cycle can dramatically increase the chance of falling pregnant, despite high FSH levels and DOR.
Remember that a high FSH level is the indicator of Diminished Ovarian Reserve, and not the cause. The DHEA is treating the actual cause of FSH, which is DOR.
FSH levels can be lowered as well. Some doctors do believe that lowering your FSH level can improve your chances of falling pregnant.
A well-known herb called Vitex Agnus Castus, also known as Vitex, Chaste Tree or Chasteberry, is known to lower FSH levels.
A personal note
My FSH levels were 11.04. Not great, as my gynaecologist said, but not terrible either. Those numbers are still ‘workable’ in fertility-speak! I decided to take Vitex and DHEA to better my chances. I do believe the Vitex lowered my FSH levels, but in the end, the DHEA was what improved my egg quality and quantity.
Please note: I am not a doctor or healthcare practitioner. I do not prescribe treatment, nor speculate on a treatment for anyone. All people are different, and will have different needs. This article is based on my research into FSH levels and pregnancy at an advanced age.
The DHEA and Agnust Castus worked for me and my FSH levels lowered down to a very good 5.0.
For more reading on natural fertility, please see my other articles
- The best diet for fertility health
Many factors can contribute to infertility; an unhealthy lifestyle is just one of them. So why not increase your chances of falling pregnant by living the healthiest life you can?
- Change your exercise routine for optimal fertility health
Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, exercise is good for you. Not just to keep your body in shape, but your mind too.
- Homeopathic remedies for fertility
Can homeopathic remedies be used for fertility purposes? Many people swear by these all-natural remedies, but does it actually work?
- Crystal healing for fertility
Many people believe in the healing properties of crystals, and use the stones in their everyday life, for myriad reasons. So can crystals weave their magic for fertility issues too?
- Using Chinese Herbs for Fertility
Chinese medicine is gaining world-wide popularity because of its effectiveness in fertility-related issues.
- Progesterone and fertility
Using bio-identical progesterone can help with your fertility issues, before and during pregnancy.
- The Benefits of Acupuncture for Fertility Issues
Can acupuncture help with your fertility issues? In some countries, acupuncture has been used for centuries as a means to help women fall pregnant.
- The 6 Best Yoga Poses for Fertility
Many fertility issues can be caused by stress. These yoga poses can relieve stress and be incredibly beneficial to your reproductive organs.
- Reflexology and fertility
Many women claim that reflexology helped them conceive, despite fertility issues or age-related problems. Here's how it can work for you.
- Vitamins and Supplements for Fertility
Many vitamins and supplements have astounding benefits specifically related to fertility, for men and women.
- DHEA for age-related fertility issues
For many years, DHEA has been heralded as an anti-aging supplement, but it is now also being used by many older women as a supplement to boost fertility. Here's why:
Sunny on August 25, 2015:
Do you have a blog? Is there a way to follow your progress?
Ellie on February 01, 2015:
Hi - I just wondered if you knew if FSH has any effect once you actually are pregnant?