Hormones are a powerful thing. The female reproductive system is based on them, and without them, we would not be able to get pregnant or go through pregnancy successfully. But what does your hormone levels mean? What do they say about you? And more importantly, how can you use this information to make the best decisions for yourself?
In this article, we will go through three things: what hormones are, how to use a hormone testing kit, and what your results mean.
First we need to know what hormones are. Hormones are chemical messengers that work in the body to perform all kinds of tasks, from helping your body digest food, to growing new tissue, and especially reproduction. The reproductive system has many types of hormones that regulate fertility or pregnancy. The three most important ones are estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH).
Before we get into how to read these levels using a saliva test kit , it is important to have some knowledge about the menstrual cycle so the hormone data makes sense. A woman’s ovarian cycle averages 28 days long with an average range of 24-32 days between periods*.
There are two phases in this cycle: follicular phase where estrogen is building up, and luteal phase where estrogen levels drop down to keep the lining of the uterus healthy for pregnancy. Ovulation happens in the middle of this cycle when estrogen reaches its highest level. A fertilized egg will only implant itself into the uterus if it recognizes that estrogen levels are high enough.
If there is no pregnancy, progesterone levels increase after ovulation to get ready for the next cycle, but during this time before menstruation, another hormone called LH triggers an egg release (ovulation). A woman continues to produce these hormones every month whether she gets pregnant or not.
So why do some women have more hormonal problems than others? Hormones are produced by glands or by cells in your body which need certain nutrients to manufacture the hormones correctly. If a woman is deficient in vitamins and/or minerals, or eats a diet high in estrogen-like chemicals called xenoestrogens, then it can disrupt hormonal production because your body cannot produce enough of the correct hormones needed for fertility and pregnancy.
Here are some key points to keep in mind as you use hormone testing as a tool:
1) During ovulation, estrogen levels will rise above 200 pg/ml. Anything above this level is considered an indicator that you have been successful with ovulation.
2) LH levels will surge during ovulation, reaching its highest point between 36 hours before menstruation starts. A surge above 10 mIU/ml is also indicative of being able to successfully ovulate. LH levels will remain elevated for the first 2 weeks of the cycle. Anything above this level is considered an indicator that you have been successful with ovulation.
3) Progesterone levels in the blood after ovulation must be between 1 and 5 ng/ml to be at a normal level where pregnancy can occur, if conditions are right (see below). And progesterone in saliva should ideally also be between 1 and 5 ng/ml when you are trying to conceive . If the level is low, it usually means implantation did not happen. High levels indicate lack of implantation or estrogen dominance (too much estrogen relative to progesterone).
If your fertility hormones are out of balance, there may be an underlying cause. If there are hormonal problems, it’s important to find the reason for them so they can be corrected and so you are able to get pregnant. One of those reasons is usually a nutritional deficiency such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (EFAs), amino acids (the building blocks of protein), or antioxidants which detoxify your cells.
Every woman’s body is different and every woman responds differently to her environment, but we all have one thing in common: we need nutrients to survive and reproduce! So remember the 3 keys:
1) Estrogen levels must be over 200 pg/ml on day 12-14 of your cycle if you want to ovulate successfully; LH should reach 10 mIU/ml in the presence of estrogen and progesterone should reach 1-5 ng/ml to support implantation.
2) After ovulation, progesterone should remain between 1 and 5 ng/ml to maintain a pregnancy (levels over 30 ng/ml reduce the ability to get pregnant).
3) LH levels must be 10 mIU/ml before menstruation begins if you want to increase your chances of getting pregnant. You can also test your saliva for progesterone on day 21 after ovulation and it needs to stay at 1-5 ng/ml for a successful implantation.
A saliva fertility test is an easy way for women who don’t have regular menstrual cycles or those who suffer from PCOS or perimenopause (when menstruation starts to become irregular) to monitor their fertility status.
If you are trying to get pregnant, it is very helpful if you can identify whether or not ovulation occurred before menstruation begins because this will indicate whether your hormones are in balance enough for implantation, which is the process that leads to pregnancy.