Oestrogen is one of those well-known hormones that probably doesn’t need a long introduction. And for good reason – on top of being involved in everything from bone strength and heart health to mood and even skin texture, oestrogen plays a key role in the female reproductive system, too. Produced primarily by the ovaries, for starters, it’s oestrogen that causes the eggs that are released during ovulation to mature.
But oestrogen is far from the only hormone that you need to know about on your conception journey. Here’s a handful of others that you should be familiar with and will probably come across on your travels, too.
Your hypothalamus, which is in the centre of your brain, is responsible for the production of this one and it’s considered by some to be the most important hormone for reproduction.That’s because when the time’s right, GnRH triggers the release of two other really important fertility hormones – follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone.
Produced by the pituitary gland at the base of your brain, FSH, as it turns out, is really appropriately named. Once GnRH signals to the pituitary gland to start producing it – something that happens soon after your period finishes each month – FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce up to 20 follicles, each of which contains an immature ovum, or egg. Only one of these eggs usually survives to maturity before being released during the all-important ovulation phase of the cycle.
Another hormone that’s produced by the pituitary gland, as oestrogen levels rise with the maturing follicle, more GnRH is secreted, which pushes levels of LH up too. When LH levels surge, ovulation occurs within about two days, which is why checking your LH levels by testing your urine using special test strips is one way to predict ovulation when you’re trying to get pregnant.
After ovulation, the cells in the ovarian follicle that are left behind once the egg is released turn into something called the corpus luteum. On top of oestrogen, the corpus luteum also produces progesterone, a hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilised egg to implant itself. If an embryo doesn’t implant, the corpus luteum degenerates, lowering levels of progesterone and triggering your next period.
While not directly involved in the month-to-month workings and phases of your menstrual cycle, low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with healthy ovulation, while too much thyroid hormone can disrupt the menstrual cycle, too. Interestingly, as a group, the bunch of thyroid conditions that can cause unusually high or low levels of thyroid hormone are considered the second most common hormonal problem affecting women of reproductive age in Australia, and they affect 10 times more women than men, worldwide. Talk to your doctor for more information.