Anyone looking to boost fertility has hormones on the brain. And that makes sense. These chemical messengers regulate various systems and bodily functions, including growth, metabolism, temperature regulation, and yes, fertility. Too much or too little of different hormones, or a system that’s out of sync, can have serious consequences that could affect any aspect of your health – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Usually, the body does a good job of producing the right amount of hormone required for a specific process. But the hormonal environment is sensitive, and lifestyle habits can have a surprising impact. If you suspect your system is a little out of whack and you’re planning for a baby, here’s what it means to balance your hormones for fertility.
- A hormonal imbalance is what happens when the body is producing too much or too little, or the production process itself is out of sync.
- Hormonal balance is critical for healthy reproductive cycles in both women and men.
- Hormonal imbalances are a leading cause of infertility in women, and the culprit behind certain conditions, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Some hormonal imbalances can be resolved with lifestyle changes, but many aren’t affected by what we do.
- If you’re hoping to improve fertility by balancing your hormones, the best approached is following all the steps of a healthy lifestyle.
Fertility Hormones in a Nutshell
Specific hormones have specific roles in the body, and that includes managing fertility. If you’re actively trying to conceive, you’re likely already familiar with the hormones in play. Let’s review:
- FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone. This is one of the most important hormones for fertility, along with LH, because it stimulates ovarian follicle maturation to prepare them for ovulation.
- LH, or luteinizing hormone, also has a direct hand in controlling the menstrual cycle and triggering ovulation. LH peaks 12 to 24 hours before ovulation.
- AMH, or anti-mullerian hormone. Think of this hormone as a nanny of sorts – it’s responsible for maintaining your body’s immature eggs. OBGYNs and fertility doctors may use an AMH test to assess your ovarian reserve, or how many eggs you have left.
- Progesterone. This is the main pro-gestational steroid hormone in the female body, and it affects everything from menstruation to pregnancy to the growing baby. Progestin is an artificial form of this hormone.
- Prolactin. Yes, this is the hormone responsible for lactation, but elevated levels can cause issues like irregular periods, infertility, and erectile dysfunction in men.
Not only does your body need the right ratio of these hormones to ensure optimal fertility health, the timing of their release needs to be spot on, too. If anything isn’t working as it should, conception and pregnancy can become very difficult. And it’s more common than you’d think. Hormonal imbalances are the leading cause of infertility in women.
When you realize how critical hormones are for fertility health, that starts to make sense. Hormones that aren’t directly tied to fertility can even play a role. Since female reproductive organs are closely connected to both the thyroid and adrenal glands, thyroid imbalances can also affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. It’s actually considered one of the biggest causes of hormonal imbalances in women, along with PCOS.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
So, what’s really going on here? How do hormones suddenly go off the rails? Actually, hormonal fluctuations happen over the course of our lifetimes, so aging is one culprit. But there are a number of other causes, including:
- Eating disorders
- Food allergies
- Poor nutrition
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Injury or trauma
- Specific health conditions, like type 1 and type 2 diabetes hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism, which create a pretty vicious cycle because they’re initially caused by hormonal imbalances and then end up contributing to that scenario
Signs & Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
While these will vary depending on which hormone (or hormones) are out of balance, there are some things that signal problems with fertility hormones specifically. Irregularities with your cycle, spotting, acne that’s new or worse than usual, facial hair or male-pattern body hair, hair loss, extreme mood swings, and unexplained weight gain can all be a sign that something’s up.
Word to the wise – avoid the self-diagnosis here. If you’ve been trying for a baby for 12 months (six months if you’re over 35), or your cycles are all over the map, or you have PCOS or a thyroid condition, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor for some testing. It’s also wise if you’re thinking about egg freezing.
Can You Balance Hormones Naturally?
Some hormonal imbalances can be resolved with lifestyle changes, but it’s also true that there are very few things we can do that really impact hormone production and balance – good or bad. Body weight is a big exception. Body fat cells, AKA adipocytes, produce and store estrogen and they influence hormones secreted in other endocrine organs. In other words, too much or too little body fat is going to be an issue. Women with extremely low body fat may have problems with their menstrual cycle, even losing it completely. Both women and men with a BMI that exceeds 30 are more likely to have elevated estrogen levels. This kind of estrogen dominance in men is a big contributor to infertility, leading to abnormal sperm and lower testosterone. It also has a trickle-down effect. Chronically low levels of testosterone affect function in the testes, so means all the hormones being produced are likewise out of balance.
But beyond maintaining a healthy weight, there are few other things worth trying. As it happens, they go hand-in-hand with the whole healthy weight thing. Yes, we’re talking about eating a nutrient-rich diet, getting regular exercise, reducing exposure to endocrine disruptors, managing stress, and taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin – your basic pillars of fertility stuff.
Quick word on prenatals – remember that they’re not all created equal. Part of what Beli considered during the formulation stage of our women’s and men’s prenatal vitamins was hormonal balance.
Vitamin D (surprise, it’s actually a hormone) plays a key role for hormonal balance because of its influence on other hormones. That’s why it’s recommended for women dealing with premenstrual syndrome. Folate is another well-researched nutrient for balancing hormones, specifically because of its ability to raise progesterone, promote ovulation, and reduce hot flashes.
You’ll find both in Beli for Women, along with other science-backed ingredients handpicked to support and promote fertility. And that’s because hormonal balance is a key consideration during preconception care, which is an important window for prioritizing the health of hopeful parents-to-be.
The Bottom Line
Experts agree that prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important ways to support your fertility and, yes, promote hormonal balance. But if your system feels out of whack, remember, hormonal imbalances aren’t your fault and it’s very unlikely that you’ve done something to trigger them.
The best advice is simple – commit to all the components of a healthy lifestyle and speak to your doctor if you’ve got a hunch that something’s not right. And if you’ve got hormones on the brain because you’re thinking about a baby, don’t wait to start those prenatal vitamins!