If you’re trying to get pregnant but have a hormonal imbalance, don’t lose hope. Learn how to treat hormonal imbalance and increase your chances of conceiving with this helpful guide.
Hormonal imbalances can make it difficult for women to conceive, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting pregnant. From lifestyle changes to medical treatments, this guide will help you understand how to treat hormonal imbalances and improve your fertility.
How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance to Get Pregnant
1. Understand the Causes of Hormonal Imbalance.
Before you can effectively treat a hormonal imbalance, it’s important to understand what may be causing it. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to identify the root cause of your hormonal imbalance and develop a personalized treatment plan.
2. Get a Hormone Test to Determine Your Levels.
The first step in treating a hormonal imbalance is to get a hormone test to determine your current hormone levels. You can do this through a blood test or saliva test which will provide valuable information about any hormonal imbalance. Your healthcare provider can then use this information to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle changes, supplements, or medications to help balance your hormones and increase your chances of conceiving.
3. Make Lifestyle Changes to Improve Hormonal Balance.
Making lifestyle changes is one of the most effective ways to improve hormonal balance and boost fertility. This can include things like eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, healthy fats, and protein can help support hormone production and balance. Exercise can also help regulate hormones and reduce stress, which can have a positive impact on fertility. Additionally, reducing stress through practices like meditation, yoga, or therapy can help balance hormones and improve overall health.
4. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy.
In some cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be recommended to treat hormonal imbalances that are impacting fertility. HRT involves taking medications that contain hormones like estrogen and progesterone to help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve fertility. However, HRT is not suitable for everyone and should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It’s important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of HRT with your doctor before starting any treatment.
5. Work with a Fertility Specialist to Develop a Treatment Plan.
If you’re struggling with hormonal imbalances and fertility issues, it’s important to work with a fertility specialist to develop a personalized treatment plan. This may involve a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). Your fertility specialist will work with you to determine the best course of action based on your individual needs and goals. It’s important to be patient and persistent in your treatment, as it may take time to see results.
Categories of Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
In Women’s Health for hormonal imbalances, most of their symptoms and concerns fall into three categories:
- Periods and period-related symptoms;
- Fertility issues;
- Problems at the beginning and end of the reproductive cycle (puberty and menopause).
Let’s first discuss these groups of symptoms. Next, we’ll cover the most common hormones your doctor may check considering your symptoms.
1. Period Problems and Period-Related Symptoms Caused by Hormone Imbalances
Women complain about irregular periods or unexpected changes to their cycles. A period is termed irregular if it occurs more frequently or less frequently than usual, or if the amount and length of bleeding have fluctuated dramatically over multiple months. Is your period becoming considerably heavier than usual? Or are you going without a period?
Keep track of your periods, when you start bleeding, and how long it lasts. There are numerous apps available to assist with this. Inform your doctor about the number of days between your cycles and your average flow. What is different and why are you concerned?
Inform them if you’re under more stress than usual, if you’ve recently changed your diet or exercise routine, or if you have a family history of irregular periods.
These changes could be due to a structural cause (such as your cervix or uterus) or a hormonal cause. Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam and may test particular hormones on a specified day of your menstrual cycle.
2. Fertility Problems Caused by Hormone Imbalances
Another common time women ask for a hormone checkup is when trying to conceive. Typically, 84% of women get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex. When conception doesn’t happen, one reason could be a hormonal imbalance. To learn more, see extensive article about fertility challenges here.
Again, tracking your menstrual cycle, including the dates you have unprotected sex, will provide your doctor with a picture of how your reproductive cycle is behaving. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, your spouse should also be evaluated for structural or hormonal concerns.
When you have your period too frequently (every couple of weeks), your uterus cannot support a fertilized egg. If your periods are 6 weeks or more apart, your ovaries may not be releasing eggs into your fallopian tubes frequently enough.
3. Puberty & Menopause Problems Caused by Hormone Imbalances
- Getting First Period Too Young or Too Old
A girl’s period usually begins around the same age as her mother’s. Some females have their first period as early as the age of ten or eleven. Others do not receive their first period until they are 15 or 16 years old. If you or your daughter are older than that and are concerned about her first period, take her to her Pediatrician or Family Doctor.
Weight fluctuations, environmental factors that trigger hormones, and adrenal gland disorders are all common factors that influence when a female gets her period.
- Teens with Irregular Periods
As their bodies mature, pre-teens and teenagers have fairly irregular periods. Teens may have strange bleeding if they are not ovulating on a regular basis.
In this instance, they have incomplete hormonal development, so the uterus isn’t getting a clear enough signal of what to do.
- Menopausal Concerns
Women’s cycles may become irregular as they enter the perimenopausal era as they reach their mid-to late-40s. In our most recent piece, we discuss what to expect during perimenopause. Perimenopause symptoms include missing periods and having milder menstrual cycles.
You should notify your doctor if your periods are becoming heavier, more frequent, longer, or with spotting between cycles. These changes could signify menopause, but they could also be caused by cervical or uterine problems.
Continue reading to see more scenarios of common hormonal balance in women that affect fertility and ways to approach them and their symptoms.
Common Hormone Imbalances Women Experience
With more than 50 hormones affecting all aspects of how your body functions, your period, your fertility, your energy, and your weight, we’re going to briefly touch on the most common disorders and imbalances we see.
1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS affects between 5% and 10% of women of childbearing age. PCOS causes ovaries to produce higher levels of androgens (male-type hormones), which can cause anovulation—a lack of egg release each month from your ovaries. Instead of releasing eggs, the ovaries of women with PCOS produce multiple small cysts that further contribute to a hormonal imbalance.
Symptoms of PCOS Include:
- Irregular periods caused by anovulation
- More hair growth (hirsutism) on areas typically associated with males (like on the face, chin, chest, abdomen, and arms)
- Acne, especially deeper, cystic acne that persists into adulthood
- Weight gain and a harder time losing weight
Women with PCOS often have greater challenges managing their blood sugar, which can turn into Type 2 diabetes if a healthy diet is not followed. In addition, women with PCOS are at risk for cardiovascular disease later in life, and so their cholesterol levels should be watched.
What is Tested When Diagnosing PCOS?
- Typical blood tests for PCOS to measure the levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), testosterone, and adrenal gland hormones.
- An ultrasound is to look for cysts on the ovaries.
Treatments for PCOS
There is no cure for PCOS, but the symptoms caused by PCOS can be treated. A few ways to treat PCOS include:
- A healthy diet and exercise can help you lose weight and manage your blood sugar levels.
- Medications that help manage your blood sugar levels can be prescribed.
- Creams can be prescribed that help slow excess, male-pattern hair growth.
- Birth control options help regulate your hormones, as suppression of ovarian hormone release can help control symptoms and regulate periods.
- Medications that can help your ovaries produce and release eggs if pregnancy is your goal.
2. Thyroid Disorders
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces insufficient hormones, which can induce fatigue and weight gain. When the thyroid generates too much hormone, it causes weight loss and the sensation of having too much energy.
Your period will be altered whether you have too much or too little thyroid hormone. It could become extremely light, stop for several months, or become really heavy and painful. Symptoms of thyroid problems are sometimes confused with menopausal symptoms. Read more about perimenopause here.
Problems with thyroid production could be caused by genetics, growths, or rarely thyroid cancer, but many times there is no other issue.
Symptoms of Thyroid Abnormalities Include:
- Changes in the menstrual cycle;
- High heart rate and heart palpitations — more than 100 beats per minute. (Note: mention to your doctor if it is frequently over 80 beats per minute.)
- Lack of energy, exhaustion, or trouble sleeping;
- Unexplained anxiety or new depression symptoms;
- Weight loss and weight gain;
- Hot flashes or excess sweating;
- Chills, unable to feel warm, especially in your hands and feet;
- Hair loss not related to stress, recent pregnancy, or age that leaves bald spots;
- Muscles that ache without cause, especially in the neck area;
- Feelings of “brain fog”;
- Changes to vision or appearance of the eyes;
- Swelling or growth on the neck.
What is Tested when Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders?
- TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone—the “thermostat” of the thyroid gland), T4, T3, and sometimes thyroid antibody tests.
- Please note that pregnancy, birth control pills, and a supplement called Biotin can affect some thyroid test results.
Treatments for Thyroid Disorders Include:
- Prescriptions to slow down thyroid hormone production;
- Prescriptions to replace thyroid hormones when the right amount isn’t being produced;
- Surgery to remove some or all of the thyroid gland.
3. Estrogen Imbalances
The majority of women do not have a severe estrogen issue until they reach menopause.
Women with exceptionally low body fat (such as professional athletes or women suffering from eating disorders) may have extremely light or non-existent periods. (amenorrhea). Too much estrogen can produce unusually heavy and lengthy periods, which is sometimes due to plenty of body fat.
Symptoms of Too Low or Too High Estrogen Include:
- Irregular or absent periods because your body is not ovulating;
- Painful sex;
- Mood swings, worse PMS;
- Hot flashes;
- Breast tenderness;
- Increased headaches and migraines;
- Weight gain;
Treatments for Estrogen Imbalance
Your doctor may be able to alleviate these symptoms with a hormonal birth control treatment. Lifestyle adjustments such as increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can also help.
4. Progesterone Imbalances
Progesterone is produced by the ovaries (mostly after ovulation each month), the adrenal glands, and the placenta during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Too Low Progesterone Include:
- Irregular or absent period;
- Difficulty becoming or staying pregnant;
- Low sex drive;
- Some researchers believe that subtle changes in progesterone production after ovulation may contribute to increased PMS symptoms in some women
Treatments for Progesterone Imbalance Include:
- Birth control with progesterone-containing pills/ring/patch, a progesterone IUD (if you’re not trying to get pregnant)
- Progesterone tablets, capsules, or suppositories to help while trying to conceive
- Over-the-counter progesterone creams: apply to the skin in the second half of your menstrual cycle for mild pre-menstrual symptoms
5. Prolactin Imbalances
Prolactin is produced by your pituitary gland. One of the reasons your body could be producing too much prolactin is a prolactinoma, which is a noncancerous growth in the pituitary gland. Hyperprolactinemia (too much prolactin) can also be caused by anorexia, liver disease, and hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Too Much Prolactin Include:
- Discharge from your nipples when you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, or feeling like your breasts are getting ready to let down milk;
- Headaches and sometimes visual changes;
- Irregular periods;
- Fertility problems.
Treatments for Too Much Prolactin Include:
- Evaluation of the pituitary gland with an MRI.
- Medications that can control high prolactin levels.
- Surgery, if you have prolactinoma.
Risks of Not Treating Hormone Imbalances
Hormone imbalances, when left untreated, are more than just “annoying mood swings and bad PMS.” They can be indicators that something more serious — rarely, even cancerous — is happening in your body.
Not getting your hormones back in balance could lead to other problems, like elevated cholesterol, osteoporosis, obesity, lack of sleep, and more.
Although truly identified hormonal imbalances often need medical or even surgical intervention, a healthy lifestyle can improve low-level symptoms.
Do your best to get:
- 6-8 hours of sleep each day;
- 30+ minutes of vigorous exercise daily;
- And a high-quality diet with enough protein and healthy fats and less sugar.
You know better than anyone when your body is feeling “off.” When you don’t have the energy you used to, you’re not sleeping well, or you’re feeling anxious and depressed for no apparent reason. You could be developing hair in unusual places or losing hair on your head.
Maybe your weight is changing and you can’t control what it’s doing — whether it’s weight gain or weight loss. Or maybe your periods are getting worse (or going away entirely). This is a red flag and you should see your gynecologist immediately.