Female hormones fluctuate naturally during a woman’s menstrual cycle, but an imbalance in these hormones can affect general wellbeing such as mood, weight, and energy.
In addition, a hormonal imbalance can lead to irregular periods and have an effect on fertility and the ability to conceive.
Understanding your own personal hormone levels, how they fluctuate over your cycle and how they change over different life stages can you keep track of any imbalances that may be making you feel less than your best.
The main female hormones in our blood test are Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinising Hormone (LH) and Oestrogen.
FSH and LH are known as control hormones and together with oestradiol (oestrogen) will identify potential hormonal problems that could affect your menstrual cycle. Changes in these hormone levels prior to the menopause can impact your general wellbeing as well as fertility.
High levels of prolactin can suppress other hormones such as FSH and LH. Raised levels of prolactin outside of pregnancy can be a sign of an underactive thyroid or physiological response to stress.
Testosterone affects bone and muscle mass, the brain, fat distribution throughout the body, energy levels and fertility. High levels of testosterone in women can indicate polycystic ovary syndrome.
Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) controls the amount of testosterone available to your body tissues. So, any irregularities in SHBG could impact your testosterone levels.
The final two hormones that are important for women to test are thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine. A thyroid imbalance can result in changes to your weight, mood and energy levels. They are also important in the metabolic rate of the body as well as bone health, the function of the heart, digestive system and fertility.
The symptoms of a hormone imbalance in women are similar to the symptoms experienced by women going through the menopause and include:
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Hormonal imbalance can occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly, for example, the thyroid gland and pituitary gland. An overactive or underactive thyroid can cause a hormonal imbalance.
If you suffer from chronic stress, then high levels of the stress hormone cortisol will impact the production of other key hormones such as progesterone. The body will create more cortisol by using available progesterone, thus depleting progesterone levels. Progesterone is a key balancing hormone so will impact the production of other hormones such as oestrogen.
Conditions such as type 1 and 2 diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome can also result in a hormone imbalance.
And finally, a poor diet and lack of good nutrition will also have an impact, as well as your age. As women enter the menopause around their mid-forties their hormones will begin to fluctuate.
If your hormone imbalance is caused by over-exercising, poor diet or stressful lifestyle then changes to these areas will help.
Ensuring you are eating the right food in the right quantities, especially if you are exercising heavily (training for a marathon or triathlon), is absolutely key to avoiding what’s known as RED-S. This is when your body is burning more calories than you are consuming and can lead to women’s periods stopping completely.
Learning to manage stress will reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol within your body.
If your hormone imbalance is caused by a medical condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome then it is best to speak with your GP and discuss treatment.
Hormones varying during menstrual cycle, therefore traditionally advice is to take day the sample on day 3. However, if it is not possible to take your sample at this time, as there are ranges for different phases of cycle, then day 3 sample is not an absolute requirement. If your sample is taken at another point in your cycle your results range will be adjusted accordingly.
If your ‘day 3’ falls on a weekend we recommend taking your sample 2 days either side of this. For example, if you day 3 falls on a Saturday collect and post your sample on Thursday or Monday.
The female menstrual cycle is divided into 4 main phases; menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal phase. The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends with ovulation which usually occurs mid cycle. The luteal phase occurs during the last two weeks of your cycle and ends with the first day of your period
If you are taking a progesterone only form of contraception such as progesterone-only pill, progesterone implant, or Minerva coil then this test is still useful as these forms of conception do not suppress normal production of FSH, LH, or oestradiol. This test is not useful if taking a combined form of conception (progesterone and oestradiol ) e.g the combined oral conceptive pill (COCP).
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