Hormones are your fertility detectives
Ever wondered, “How the heck does my body know to get its period or release an egg into my fallopian tube during ovulation?” It’s not magic — it’s hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that are responsible for regulating its functions, including your monthly cycle and reproductive abilities. For example, luteinizing hormone (LH) causes an egg to be released from an ovarian follicle (where the eggs are housed) and into the fallopian tube. In other words, LH triggers ovulation. If your LH levels are low, it may be difficult to ovulate. If an egg doesn’t get released, there’s less of a chance it will meet and get fertilized by a sperm. Hence, spontaneous conception could be tough.
Modern Fertility offers a fertility testing kit that can be completed in the comfort of your home. All it takes is a simple finger prick to get access to the same physician-approved reports that break down up to nine fertility hormone levels. These are the exact same hormone tests you’d get from a clinic. The reports, which are presented in a user-friendly dashboard and written in a straightforward, non-medical way, also provide you with an age-specific interpretation of each hormone level and how this relates to fertility. If you have questions or need support, a licensed fertility nurse is just a call or email away.
Taking a step back, let’s dig into the relationship between hormones and fertility. Why is getting them tested and tracking them over time relevant?
Here’s another example: Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is responsible for developing a number of ovarian follicles (which house your eggs) and ultimately maturing a single follicle and egg for ovulation during each monthly cycle. If your FSH levels are high, it may be a sign that your body is having to work extra hard to develop follicles and mature an egg. This can be a sign that your ovarian reserve (that term for the number of eggs left in your ovaries) is low.
One more for you: Did you know anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) is an even better predictor of ovarian reserve than both FSH and actually counting the number of eggs remaining in your ovaries via ultrasound? (The latter is known as an antral follicle count or AFC.) Getting this hormone tested, perhaps along with LH and FSH and pursuing an AFC, is a helpful biomarker for seeing an even clearer fertility picture.
To maximize fertility, it’s helpful for certain hormones to be at optimal levels to keep your cycle and ovaries working as they should. This is why hormone testing is a critical part of fertility testing, regardless of whether you’re trying to conceive or not. But as we mentioned, fertility declines with age. Keeping a close eye on your hormone levels — the same way you would track your savings or cholesterol — lets you keep tabs on your fertility, perhaps alerting you to a red flag or giving you some peace of mind. This is why hormone testing is an ideal first step for those who aren’t ready to start a family but want one down the road.
Hormone testing is one method of fertility testing
It’s important to call out the other types of tests that shed light on your ability to naturally conceive. After an initial consultation (which costs money — more on this in a bit), a fertility clinic will usually administer a physical exam, which might include a gynecological exam and an ultrasound. These can be used to determine your AFC and help detect physical barriers to fertility, like polycystic ovaries, large ovarian cysts, uterine shape and the thickness of its lining, or blocked fallopian tubes.
At the clinic, completing questionnaires and having conversations about your health history, lifestyle, and cycle can also reveal underlying fertility issues, like smoking, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), endometriosis and other diseases, or amenorrhea (an absence of a period).
These clinics also recommend and perform the exact same hormone testing that Modern Fertility offers, but at a much steeper price. We called eight clinics in the San Francisco Bay area to understand how much hormone testing costs. Across the clinics, the initial consultation ranged from $225 to $1050. The cost of blood work ranged from about $800 to $1500, but this can depend on how many hormones are tested, if the clinic relies on a third party lab for testing, and how many tests the doctor recommends or requests. Assuming insurance or your employer doesn’t cover fertility testing, these are out-of-pocket costs.