Being aware of the effect of hormonal imbalance on your pregnancy is an important first step to avoid complications.
It's a miracle that women can even get pregnant considering the delicate harmony the body requires. One hormone out of balance can disrupt and prevent a pregnancy. Canary Club's at home Fertility Hormone Tests can help guide you and your health practitioner in discovering hormone-related fertility issues.
Let's look at two of the phases of the women's cycle: the Follicular Phase and Luteal Phase, where pregnancies have their most common complications including miscarriages.
- Follicular Phase - making an egg
- Ovulation - releasing the egg
Making An Egg
You may remember from physiology class that the menstrual cycle is divided into two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase is the selection of one egg from thousands within the ovaries to be the "dominant" egg for that month. After 14 days, this dominant egg will be released.
After menstruation, which occurs during the first few days of the follicular phase, the estradiol levels start to rise causing growth of the endometrial lining and maturation of the egg and the follicle.
Release the Egg (Ovulation)
At ovulation, a surge of lutenizing and follicle stimulating hormones stimulates the release of the egg from the follicle and the tissue left behind becomes the corpus luteum.
The primary job of the corpus luteum is to produce progesterone which acts on the growing endometrium to make it receptive to implantation should pregnancy occur.
If the egg is not fertilized it will die and progesterone and estrogen levels fall. Without these hormones the uterus lining breaks up and is released in menstruation. However if the egg IS fertilized, it becomes a "blastocyst" and will make its attempt at implanting in the uterus.
Implantation typically occurs between 6-10 days after ovulation. Upon successful implantation, the now embryo produces the hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG) which tells the ovaries to continue to produce progesterone. Progesterone suppresses the surge of estrogen that typically happens just before the release of an ovum, which in turn inhibits production of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Folliicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This chain reaction of hormone production stops the release of more eggs during pregnancy.
Eventually, during the 10th to 12th week of gestation, the placenta relieves the corpus luteum's job and begins to produce progesterone, which it continues to do throughout the pregnancy.
Complications to Pregnancy and Miscarriage
An imbalance of hormones during the gestation phase can cause miscarriages.
Luteal phase failure or luteal phase defect occurs when the corpus luteum fails to produce adequate progesterone to sustain the pregnancy during the first 10-12 weeks of gestation.
This can be a result of failure of the follicle to develop due to inadequate follicle stimulating hormone, or due to the early breakdown of the corpus luteum.
Either way, a defective corpus luteum results in inadequate progesterone production and is one of the leading causes of early termination of pregnancy (miscarriage) and may also be involved in failure of an embryo to implant in the first place.
Achieving and Maintaining a Pregnancy
Knowing a few simple aspects of pregnancy can help see you toward a full-term.
Salivary progesterone levels during the mid-luteal phase are an effective and non-invasive way to analyze the patency of the corpus luteum and may provide invaluable information to a patient who is having difficulty achieving or maintaining pregnancy.
Luteal phase defect can be treated with nutritional and botanical therapies to enhance and support proper function, and/or with supplementation of bio-identical progesterone during the luteal phase.
Though there are many additional factors that can be involved with infertility, this simple intervention may be all that is needed to help you become pregnant.
Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility Seventh Edition 2005. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc.
Weschler, T. Taking Charge of Your Fertility. New York: HarperCollins.