A follicle-stimulating hormone investigation quantifies the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level in your blood. The FSH is generated by the Pituitary Gland.

  • In females, the FSH helps in controlling the menstrual cycle and the egg production by the ovaries. The FSH amounts in the female’s body keep fluctuating throughout a female’s periods and are found to be the highest just before her time of ovulation. When a female’s ovaries release an egg, it is called ovulation. (If the process doesn’t happen, it is called anovoulation)
  • In males, the FSH helps in controlling the sperm production in their semen. The FSH amount in males usually is found to be stable.

The FSH amount and the presence of other hormones, like estrogen, progesterone and luteinizing are quantified in both males and females to ascertain why a couple is not achieving pregnancy and the probable cause of infertility. The level of FSH level also helps in determining whether the female and male sex organs, such as the ovaries or testicles are working properly.

Why Is FSH Test Done?

A follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) examination is usually performed for:

  • Finding the probable cause of infertility. The FSH tests are usually used for evaluating a:
  • Female’s egg delivery (ovarian reserve)
  • Male’s low sperm counting in ejaculated semen.
  • Besides, the test helps in diagnosing menstrual problems, like absent or irregular menstrual periods. The absence of menstrual periods is called amenorrhea. This way, the doctors may also determine whether the woman has attained menopause.
  • The FSH examination also helps in determining if a child is passing through early puberty, known as precocious puberty. The puberty is before time if it begins in girls before the age of 9 and in boys before the age of 10.
  • The test also helps in determining why sexual organs and features are not growing as they ought to. The condition is called delayed puberty.
  • The examination also helps in diagnosing some disorders related to the pituitary gland, like a tumor.

How to get ready for the FSH Test?

Several medications like Clomiphene, Digitalis, Cimetidine and Levodopa may  alter the outcome of the Test. You may probably be advised to stop taking such medications; besides birth controlling pills nearly 4 weeks before going for a Follicle-stimulating hormone test. The birth controlling pills contain progesterone or estrogen and even both and their use may give unreliable test results.

Ensure that you provide a complete record of prescribed and non-prescribed (over-the-counter) medications you have been taking, including herbal and natural. In case you went through an examination using radioactive tracer during the last 7 days, it is advised to inform your treating doctor about it. The latest tests (thyroid or bone scans) that use radioactive tracer may interfere with the FSH examination results.

Inform your doctor the first day of your menstruation. In case the pattern of your bleeding happens to be light or starts with spotting, the first day of your periods is likely to be with the heaviest bleeding. Discuss with your doctors all your concerns like:

  • Why do you require the examination?
  • The risks involved in it
  • How it is performed? And,
  • What the outcome would mean for you/

The health specialist taking your blood sample will:

  • Drape a supple strap around the upper portion of your arm for stopping the blood flow. This helps in making the veins below the strap protruding large and facilitates the placement of the needle into one of the veins.
  • Sanitize the place of the needle with a disinfectant like alcohol
  • Place the needle into your vein. At times, the needle does not get placed correctly in one attempt, so more than 1 needle is required.
  • Connect the needle with a tube for filling it with blood.
  • Do away the strap from the arm after filling the tube with blood that is enough for carrying out the test.
  • Remove the needle by applying a cotton ball or gauze pad over the place of the needle.
  • Bandage the needle place after applying some pressure.

A woman having menstrual cycle problems or finding it difficult to achieve pregnancy (facing infertility) may require one than one blood sample for identifying the follicle-stimulating hormone problems. A blood sample may be required every day consecutively.

How the Test feels?

You may experience a pinch or a pointed sting from the needle as it enters into the vein through your skin. Or, you may not feel anything at all. Certain people experience a stinging hurt as long as the needle is in their veins. But mostly people do not experience any kind of pain excepting a slight discomfort while placing the needle in the vein.

What are the Potential Risks of the FSH Test?

There is a small amount of risks and complications when the blood samples are drawn from the veins.

  • You may get a little bruise on the place of the puncture. The risk of getting bruise can be reduced by exerting pressure on the pierced place for many minutes after withdrawing the needle.
  • Rarely, the pierced vein may get inflammation after taking the blood sample. The condition is known as phlebitis and is commonly treated with warm compress applications several times in a day.
  • In case you have been suffering from bleeding disorders, the bleeding from the pierced vein may not stop easily. If you are on blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin, etc., you are advised to inform the treating doctor before taking your blood samples. Such blood-thinning medicines may add to your woe of continuous bleeding.

Outcomes

A follicle-stimulating hormone examination evaluates the quantity of FSH in your blood sample. The outcome of the test will depend on your age and your sexual developmental stage. The timing of your menstrual cycle may also affect the outcome.  It is advised to inform the doctor the first day of your menstruation before performing the test. The outcomes of the test are generally made available within 1 day.

Standard Results

The standard values of the results are given in the table below for reference or guide.  The range of the standard values may differ from laboratory to laboratory. And, your laboratory may indicate a different range of values what you consider as normal. Besides this, your doctor may like evaluating your outcomes of the test depending on your health condition and some other factors. This would mean that the values that listed below as abnormal may still be normal for your laboratory and the treating doctor.

Standard Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) Range

Menstruating females
Follicular stage 1.37 to 9.9 IU/L
Mid-cycle highest 6.17 to 17.2 IU/L
Luteal stage 1.09 to 9.2 IU/L
Females after menopause 19.3 to 100.6 IU/L
Males 1.42 to 15.4 IU/L

Several conditions may alter the FSH levels. Your doctor may like to discuss with you if he gets significantly abnormal outcomes in relation with your health conditions in the past and the symptoms.

High Values

High FSH values in females may indicate:

High FSH values in males may signify:

  • Klinefelter syndrome.
  • Absence of testicles or their malfunctioning.
  • Damaged testicles because of a disease, like dependence on alcohol or some treatments like chemotherapy or X-rays.

High values among children may denote: Onset of puberty.

Low values

  • Low levels of FSH values may indicate:
  • A female’s ovaries are not releasing eggs and are preventing ovulation or a male is not generating sperm in his semen.
  • Malfunctioning of a brain region, including the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
  • The presence of a tumor and its interference with the brain’s capability of controlling the production of FSH.
  • Malnourishment or anorexia.

What may affect the FSH test results:

The outcomes of the Follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH) examination may get affected by the following reasons:

  • The use of progesterone, estrogen or testosterone hormones, including birth-controlling pills that that these hormones.
  • Heavy smoking.
  • Your age.
  • The use of certain medications, like levodopa, digitalis, cimetidine and clomiphene generally interferes with the FSH results. Ensure to provide a complete record of all prescribed or non-prescribed medicines you have been taking inclusive of natural or herbal medicines.
  • In case you have gone through a thyroid or a bone test using radioactive material during the last one week before going in for the FSH test.

Point to ponder

In case you have been taking any kind of medication containing progesterone, testosterone or estrogen, like birth controlling pills, consult your doctor whether you should be stopping these medicines many days before going in for the FSH test.

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