What hormones are important for IVF?
Hormones for IVF are extremely important because they help control the treatment and maximize the patient’s chance of successful pregnancy. Because the menstrual cycle of the woman receiving treatment must be adjusted for timely egg maturing and egg retrieval, the IVF hormones fertility doctor prescribes help regulate the cycle.
But what hormones do you have to take for IVF success, when should you take them and do you really have to? Keep reading to find out.
Role of hormones in IVF treatment
Hormones play a crucial role in the process of IVF treatment. To start with, women reach out for this way of getting pregnant in case of female infertility, hence when they struggle to achieve pregnancy naturally. This means that there is something off in their body’s reproductive system, which leads them to be unable to ovulate and hence, produce healthy eggs.
In turn, healthy egg production in a female body is the result of the proper functioning of the reproductive system, which is driven by the relevant hormones. That’s why an IVF cycle requires a number of hormones used in an IVF cycle to prevent premature ovulation and start ovarian stimulation to facilitate the production of eggs, which are later fertilized in vitro.
In other words, taking fertility medications and using hormones as a part of in vitro fertilisation helps stall premature ovulation and imitate the natural reproductive process in a female body. This, in turn, allows you to achieve the goal of ovulating to produce healthy eggs, regardless of whether it’s a traditional IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection you’re receiving
With this being said, hormones play a huge role in the process of IVF treatment and clinical pregnancy rates; in fact, the role of hormones in IVF is one of the leading ones. So if you’re thinking of starting your IVF journey, be sure to dive deeper into what hormones are given during IVF so that you are familiar with what your or your partner’s body will be going through.
What hormones are used in IVF?
The reproductory system is a complex one — it involves various hormones, each of which affects the woman’s ability to conceive and get pregnant. Hormones like AMH, LH, FSH, progesterone, estrogen, prolactin and TSH play a huge role in female reproductive health and hence, the process of IVF. Let’s discuss what hormones are used in IVF in detail.
1. AMH (Anti-mullerian hormone)
Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) takes an active part in the development of reproductive organs in the baby. This makes the levels of AMH different in males in females. In fact, the high AMH level in males makes sure they don’t develop female reproductive organs. In turn, female babies have a low level of AMH.
Adult women have AMH in their bodies, too — it is produced in the ovaries, helping create and release eggs. So the level of AMH in a grown-up female can tell a lot about the ovarian reserve of the woman.
So how is AMH involved in the process of IVF? Well, you have to take an AMH test at the beginning of your IVF journey. Since AHM starts declining in women after the age of 25, it’s important to know your reproductive lifespan, and AHM can be of great help for this.
So a healthcare specialist takes blood from your vein to determine the level of AMH in your body, which can be done at any point of your period. As a result, you can get a high (>1.0 ng/mL) or low (<1.0 ng/mL) level of AHM, which stands for a high or low ovarian reserve, respectively.
2. LH (Luteinizing hormone)
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is another hormone that plays a huge role in people’s reproductive health. In both men and women, LH stimulates reproductive processes. In males, LH promotes the production of testosterone, while the change in the hormone’s level promotes the occurrence of ovulation in females.
Besides, LH provokes the female body’s response when a pregnancy needs to be supported. This implies the release of hormones required to support pregnancy. Thus, LH provokes the creation of the corpus luteum, which is a structure in the female’s ovaries. This structure stimulates the production of progesterone and supports pregnancy at its beginning.
Levels of LH in your body may increase with age, so it’s important to know whether the level of this hormone is normal in your body when you’re thinking of starting IVF. This means you need to take an LH test, which requires a blood sample.
3. FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone)
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is the growth hormone responsible for producing mature eggs in the ovaries. It is also the hormone that is injectable and used in the IVF cycle for infertility treatment.
Just like LH, FSH is produced in the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. The brain can sense the changes in the level of estrogen that occur as the woman ages. This stimulates the production of FSH as an attempt to increase the level of estrogen by promoting hormone production in the ovaries.
As a result, the level of FSH in a woman’s body is constantly increasing with age, even after menopause when there are no eggs left.
In the process of IVF, an FSH test is conducted on the 3rd day of your menstrual cycle to determine whether your baseline level of the hormone is normal (>9). In case it is increased (9-20), this means that your ovarian reserve is low. The level of FSH can also predict your body’s reaction to fertility medication.
When the level of FSH on day 3 of your menstrual cycle is higher than 20, there is an extremely low chance that your body will react to ovarian stimulation via fertility drugs. However, each patient is approached individually, so it’s best to consult with your fertility doctor before jumping to any conclusions.
Ovaries produce progesterone, which increases during ovulation. This hormone’s role is to prepare the uterine lining, the endometrium, for pregnancy in case it occurs. If it doesn’t, the level of progesterone decreases, and the period starts.
In fact, this hormone takes care of the lining’s ability to allow the egg to stick to it when it gets fertilized. In case of pregnancy, progesterone may keep being produced for 8-10 more weeks to ensure that mature eggs occur and the embryo’s safe development.
With this being said, you get prescribed progesterone in your assisted reproductive technology and IVF journey to prevent it from decreasing and improve the preparation of the uterine lining. This enhances implantation success and contributes to healthy development after embryo transfer.
When you’re prescribed progesterone, you have to start taking it on the day of egg retrieval unless directed otherwise by your doctor. There are different ways how you can take it — injections, vaginal gel and pills. However, the pills are the least effective because the stomach does not absorb the hormone enough.
Estrogen, which is a part of the estradiol hormone, is a female sex hormone that is produced in the follicles of the ovaries. It is responsible for growing and maintaining the uterine lining, particularly making it thicker over time after fertilization so that a healthy pregnancy can be supported.
The level of estrogen fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle, with its peak during ovulation. And in menopause, the level of estrogen decreases the most when compared to an earlier age.
To support the process of using assisted reproductive technology, you may get prescribed estrogen supplements so that the level of the hormone is balanced out. The reason is that it may change under the impact of other reproductive hormones and procedures, so it’s crucial to ensure the right estrogen level for safe implantation and pregnancy development.
The prolactin hormone is produced in pregnant and breastfeeding women since it’s responsible for creating breast milk. While it may seem beneficial to have higher prolactin while trying to conceive, it’s actually not a good indicator.
The reason is excessive prolactin affects the development of ovarian follicles and uterine lining. While generating milk, prolactin shuts down the woman’s ability to reproduce. So high levels of prolactin in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding signal a hormonal imbalance.
Therefore, it’s important to track the level of prolactin when you’re about to start your assisted reproductive technology and IVF treatments, for which you need to take a prolactin test. It’s best to take it in the morning, regardless of the day of your cycle.
A normal prolactin level for females before pregnancy is <25 ng/mL. If you have a higher level, you may be prescribed medication to suppress prolactin and improve your chances of conceiving.
7. TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone)
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is another hormone that affects the reproductive system and the woman’s ability to conceive. In particular, the balanced levels of thyroid hormones ensure that fertilization is successful and the woman doesn’t experience ovarian dysfunction or polycystic ovary syndrome, along with other reproductive issues or problems during pregnancy.
So taking a TSH test to determine the levels of the hormone may be a necessity for females before starting IVF. The test involves a blood sample taken and can be done on any morning. The normal TSH level for women who are not pregnant is <5.0 mIU/L.
8. hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)
Human chorionic gonadotrophin, also known as hCG, is often referred to as the pregnancy hormone. The reason is that it is produced as the clinical pregnancy occurs and is the highest at early pregnancy stages. This is also the hormone that signals your pregnancy when you do a pregnancy test.
Along with other hormone injections, this hormone supports the thickening of your uterine lining and the development of the embryo after embryos are transferred.
How long do you take hormones for IVF?
In general, your hormonal treatment for IVF starts with suppressing your natural menstrual cycle through medication. Then, it is time to facilitate egg production in your ovaries with FSH injections before egg retrieval. Altogether, the time of how long do you take hormones for IVF rounds to about 2 weeks.
Depending on what happens next, you may be prescribed more medication. If pregnancy takes place, you may need to take progesterone to support it. Otherwise, if you’re going for another IVF cycle, you will have to go through the 2-week treatment again.
How do IVF hormones make you feel?
Taking medication that affects your hormone levels can cause some changes in how you feel and how your body works. So how do IVF hormones make you feel and do IVF hormones make you tired?
Here are some of the things you may experience physically:
- increased appetite
- constipation/loose stool
- weight gain pain caused by ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome — reach out to the doctor immediately if you experience any pain after your fertility treatments
Besides, caused by IVF hormones mood swings may also occur. And here are some other potential mental, emotional and cognitive changes:
- feeling emotional
- feeling anxious
- feeling distracted or forgetful
While these are not necessarily what you’ll feel when you get your hormonal treatment, it’s best to be aware of the potential effects of hormonal medications. Especially it’s important to be familiar with conditions like ovarian hyperstimulation.
However, it’s also important to remember that in vitro fertilization is a process that will eventually come to an end and you will no longer experience the symptoms if any occur. Be sure to take care of yourself during the process — live a healthy and active lifestyle and stay positive.
Hormones after IVF treatment
Everybody’s body are different, so each patient may need to take different hormonal medications after in vitro fertilization treatment to learn how to balance hormones after IVF, especially if you experience any deviations like ovarian hyperstimulation.
But while every patient is different, there are some common practices in IVF treatment in terms of post-IVF hormonal treatment. One of the most important reproductive hormones after IVF retrieval is progesterone.
As we discussed earlier, progesterone plays the most prominent role in building the uterine lining, which ensures that after the embryo transfer, it sticks and pregnancy occurs. Especially under the impact of other hormonal treatments prescribed during IVF, a woman’s progesterone level may be too low to provide a safe environment for the pregnancy.
With this being said, the patient may be prescribed to take progesterone for 8 to 12 weeks after the implantation as one of the hormones after IVF. Then, if pregnancy occurs successfully, the placenta steps into action and starts producing your own progesterone, which is enough to support the pregnancy.
Can you do IVF without hormones?
In short, the answer to the question of can you do IVF without hormones is ‘yes.’ You can do IVF without hormones — it’s called natural cycle IVF. In fact, there is not as much difference between the two in terms of the timeline or procedures.
The only thing that differs is that you don’t get medication for ovarian stimulation and egg production, so you will be monitored to know when you ovulate. So you can only produce one egg during each cycle, while you can produce multiple eggs during traditional fertility treatments.
Because there’s only one egg produced each cycle, natural in vitro fertilization won’t be as successful as traditional fertility treatments. Besides, there is more control over the cycle when you are medicated, and there are more chances of something going wrong with egg production during the natural cycle just because of how fragile and prone to various damaging factors natural egg production is.
Additionally, the ability of females to produce eggs declines as they age, which is another factor complicating natural IVF and reducing its chances of success.
So while natural IVF is possible, it provides low chances of success and still requires undergoing the entire process of treatment, including all medical procedures, tests and doctor visits.
There are different hormones that make up our reproductive system, naturally affecting males and females in a distinct way. But the role of hormones in IVF treatment is crucial for successful conceiving and pregnancy, which makes them extremely important for IVF.
While the 7 listed hormones play the biggest role in in vitro fertilisation treatment, the case may differ depending on each patient and change what hormones do you take for IVF. If you want to know more about what hormones you will have to take during your treatment, reach out to our team and we’ll provide you with more information.
Оbstetrician-gynecologist, reproductive specialist, doctor of ultrasound diagnostics, IVF coordinator.