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Female Infertility Testing: Blood Tests

written by: Robyn Broyles • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 9/30/2010

What blood tests can be expected during testing for infertility causes in women? Find out the meaning of various blood hormone tests that might be ordered.

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    Many tests are available to help diagnose the cause of infertility in females. Blood tests are a major part of this testing. Blood tests for female infertility mainly measure the levels of various hormones. Various hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone, all affect each other in complex ways. If one of these hormone levels is abnormal, other hormones will probably have abnormal levels as well.

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    Reproductive Cycle Hormone Tests

    Luteinizing Hormone Test: Luteinizing hormone (LH) is produced by the pituitary gland. It is necessary to support the second half of a woman's menstrual cycle, the time during which a newly fertilized embryo implants in the uterus. The embryo will not produce enough hormones to sustain the pregnancy right away, so luteinizing hormone fulfills that role. Low LH can be a cause of infertility.

    Follicle Stimulating Hormone Test: Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), like LH, is produced by the pituitary gland. It is necessary to cause an egg to "ripen" and be released from the ovary, and later plays a role in supporting the embryo before it can produce the hormones to sustain the pregnancy. Low FSH can be a cause of infertility.

    Estradiol Test: Estrogen is a female hormone that plays many roles in reproduction. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries in response to FSH; in return, high estrogen causes the production of LH. The form of estrogen important for conception is called estradiol (or E2), so this is the type of estrogen test usually performed for female infertility. An abnormal estadiol level can affect fertility.

    Progesterone Test: Progesterone is the hormone that causes a woman's body to sustain a pregnancy. After implantation, it is produced by the placenta of the embryo or fetus. Before the placenta has developed enough to produce progesterone (about two weeks after conception), the woman's body must produce it, or the embryo will be lost. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum, which forms from the egg follicle in the ovary after ovulation. The corpus luteum cannot develop without the influence of other hormones.

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    Other Hormone Tests

    Prolactin Test: Prolactin is a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland. Normally, prolactin is involved in milk production. Fertility is suppressed to some degree (though not completely) while a woman is nursing an infant. If prolactin levels are abnormally high in a woman who is not nursing a baby, she may have trouble conceiving. High prolactin may be caused by a benign tumor in the brain, called a prolactinoma, that can usually be treated without surgery.

    Thyroid Hormone Tests: Thyroid hormones are critical in metabolism and in regulating other hormones, and abnormal levels can upset fertility in women. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) may be tested because TSH, produced in the pituitary gland, is necessary for the thyroid gland to do its job. This is the most common thyroid test. T3 and T4 are common names for the thyroid hormones. Most of the time, if normal TSH is produced, T3 and T4 levels should be normal as well, but certain conditions can interrupt this cycle. Therefore, T3 and T4 may be tested directly to help diagnose the cause of female infertility.

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    Reference

    Tests of Female Infertility from Lab Tests Online.