Answering Questions About Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

09/05/2019

By: Amy Divaraniya, PhD

 

First things first, what is LH?

LH is produced and released by the anterior pituitary gland. The pituitary gland sits right at the base of the brain and is about the size of a single pea. LH is known as a gonadotropin and affects the sex organs in both men and women. It is a critical hormone in regulating and controlling the reproductive system. 

What is the role of LH in men?

In men, LH controls the function of the testes. LH release causes the production of testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for stimulating sperm production and helps accentuate male characteristics such as a deep voice and growth of facial hair.

What is the role of LH in women?

In women, LH controls the function of the ovaries. Approximately two weeks into a woman’s menstrual cycle, an elevation, or surge, in LH levels causes ovulation to occur which is when an ovary releases an egg. If fertilization of the egg occurs, LH will stimulate the production of progesterone to sustain the pregnancy.

What is the LH surge?

LH is normally secreted at very low levels throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. However, once a developing egg follicle reaches a particular size, usually halfway through a woman’s cycle, LH secretion surges to pretty high levels. This surge is what triggers ovulation about 24-36 hours later.

The LH surge is important because it initiates the beginning of ovulation and your fertile window. If you are trying to get pregnant, this is the best time to start having unprotected sex. If you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you would abstain from having unprotected sex during this time.

What are some problems associated with LH?

LH has a very important role in the body for both men and women, therefore, a steady balance of this hormone is essential for good health. If the hormone is off balance, it can lead to various health issues.

Individuals with high levels of LH may experience infertility because the hormone directly impacts the reproductive system. In women, high levels of LH are often connected to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which results in inappropriate testosterone levels. Low levels of LH can also result in infertility. In women, low LH can stop ovulation and menstrual periods may not occur regularly. In men, low levels of LH can limit the production of sperm.

If you suspect problems with LH function, you should seek the help of a qualified endocrinologist.

How should you track LH?

LH is secreted in pulses, therefore, it is necessary to follow the concentration of LH over time to get proper information about its levels. The level of LH fluctuates throughout the day so it is not necessary to measure multiple times a day. It is best to measure LH levels at approximately the same time across many days to compare and track your LH levels.

Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) are an easy way to detect an LH surge. These are similar to pregnancy tests however, instead of detecting the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG),  they detect LH levels in your urine. Something to keep in mind when using these is that OPKs don’t work very well for women who have irregular cycles or who have health conditions such as PCOS. 

Regardless of whether you’re trying to get pregnant, trying to avoid getting pregnant, or just interested in your general health, LH is a key hormone to monitor and track. It’s why we included it within the OOVA product. LH combined with progesterone will give you the most accurate data you need to achieve your fertility goals.