Turns out the “stress” from labour is beneficial for the baby because it helps with lung maturation, improved sense of smell (important for breastfeeding), decreased obesity and higher cognitive function. Contractions are good for the baby!
You know the drill when it comes to hormonal blood work; it’s a lot of poking and prodding on multiple days of your menstrual cycle. In my experience, my patients have had all the right testing done (mostly), but no one has taken the time to sit down with them and explain what the results truly mean.
The biggest pitfall of serum (blood) hormone testing is that the reference ranges are MASSIVE. Which means it is highly unlikely that your results will be deemed “abnormal” even though you know something is wrong. So that’s what this blog is for; I’m going to break it all down for you and discuss what the results mean and the REAL range you’re looking for. Note: the following reference ranges are for women and are Canadian units.
What it is: Estradiol, along with LH and FSH, stimulate follicle (egg) maturation. It’s also responsible for female sex characteristics, thickening of the endometrial lining, and bone protection. Estrogen can also be converted from fat, in both males and females, by an enzyme called aromatase.
What it means: Low estradiol is present in peri-menopause and menopause. Elevated estrogen is present in early premature ovarian insufficiency (followed by low levels), and in estrogen dominant conditions like: PMS, endometriosis, PCOS, and obesity.
Follicular 77-921 pmol/L
Luteal 77-1145 pmol/L
The “real” range: The width of the above ranges is ridiculous! Estradiol should be tested on day 3 and should be lower than 200 pmol/L and higher than 80 pmol/L. A level higher than this is a sign that the body is trying too hard to stimulate egg development, and the ovaries are not responding. In this case, you will likely see elevated FSH too.
2) FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone)
What it is: The name says it all. FSH is in charge of the development and maturation of follicles.
What it means: High levels are diagnostic of menopause, ranging from 27-133 IU/L. When your body is pumping out more FSH than normal, it’s a sign that the ovaries are not responding (just like estrogen). Low levels of FSH are typically present in PCOS.
Follicular 3-8 IU/L
Mid-cycle 3-22 IU/L
Luteal 1.5-5.5 IU/L
The “real” range: Higher than 8 IU/L on day 3 (that’s the 3rd day of your period) is too high and the value is only going up from there. 6 IU/L is as good as it gets on day 3.
3) LH (Luteinizing hormone)
What it is: Ah, the hormone everyone knows and loves! The LH surge triggers ovulation and is measured by urine strips. LH also contributes to the maturation of eggs. You may not know that estrogen surges right before LH, which can also be used to detect ovulation.
What it means: On day 3, an LH to FSH ratio greater than 2:1 is indicative of PCOS. LH is elevated in PCOS for so many reasons I’ll need to dedicate another blog to it. Elevated LH also stimulates elevated testosterone production, and in turn estrogen production. Contrary to what you may think, high LH actually inhibits ovulation instead of stimulating it.
Follicular 2-12 IU/L
Mid-cycle 8-90 IU/L
Luteal 1-14 IU/L
The “real” range: LH should be almost equivalent to FSH on day 3. 6-8 IU/L is ideal.
What it is: Most of the body’s progesterone is produced by the outer coating of the egg, called the corpus luteum. After you ovulate, progesterone levels increase to maintain the endometrial lining and prepare for embryo implantation. Progesterone also stimulates the production of a thick mucous that covers the cervix so no sperm can enter the uterus (FYI this is the basis of hormonal birth control).
What it means: A low level of mid-luteal progesterone indicates anovulation and luteal phase defect (short luteal phase) and predicts implantation failure/ early miscarriage.
Luteal 4-50 nmol/L
The “real” range: On day 21 the minimum value is 10 nmol/L to have ovulated and 20 nmol/L to carry a pregnancy. Day 21 is arbitrary if you don’t ovulate on day 14. Progesterone is best-tested 7 days after you ovulate.
What it is: The main function of prolactin is to stimulate breast milk production. However, elevation can also occur due to the following: benign pituitary tumor, periods of high stress, hypothyroidism, PCOS, and certain medications.
What it means: Elevated prolactin inhibits the release of GnRH, which then inhibits the release of LH and FSH. Without LH and FSH, follicles will not develop.
The “real” range: Prolactin levels as high as 50 ug/L can inhibit ovulation, but small increases by a few points are relatively harmless. One-time elevation should be followed by repeat testing. As mentioned, stress is a major influence on this hormone.
What it is: A precursor hormone to both estrogen and testosterone.
What it means: DHEA is often evaluated in PCOS, as elevations in this hormone increase androgen levels. It may be prescribed to improve ovarian reserve (but not without fun side-effects).
Reference Range: <9.8 umol/L
What it is: Produced from DHEA, this hormone is the precursor to testosterone.
What it means: Elevated androstenedione is found in PCOS and adrenal hyperplasia. Both conditions inhibit ovulation. It may be elevated in isolation, or with testosterone.
Follicular 1.2-8.7 nmol/L
Luteal 1.1-8.2 nmol/L
What it is: You know this hormone for its role as the primary male sex hormone, but it’s important for women too! In the ovaries, testosterone is produced by the stromal cells and converted to estrogen. It participates in follicle growth and development, not to mention male and female libido.
What it means: Too much is present in PCOS which is far from ideal, but too little can inhibit ovulation and egg development.
Total testosterone 0.3- 1.8 nmol/L (some labs up to 4 nmol/L)
The “real” range: Testosterone is extremely tricky to test accurately. Free testosterone is a better measurement than total and the reference ranges (depending on the lab) have huge variability. In order to test free testosterone you need to test total testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin.
9) AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone)
What it is: It’s a hormone that can depict the female egg reserve because it is secreted by the eggs in the ovaries. The more eggs you have, the higher the value will be. Not surprisingly, AMH decreases with age. This is the only hormone test we have for predicting ovarian reserve.
What it means: A lower value for your age means you have a lower number of eggs than the average female. A much higher value for your age is indicative of PCOS, as the cystic ovaries in PCOS secrete excess AMH.
Reference Range: The numbers are averages based on age:
< 33 = 2.1 ng/mL
33-37 = 1.7 ng/mL
38-40 = 1.1 ng/mL
> 41 = 0.5 ng/mL
The “real” range: At any age, a value > 3.15 – 4.45 ng/mL warrants further testing for PCOS. A value of 6.8-10 ng/mL is diagnostic.
10) TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) & Antibodies (anti-TPO, anti-TG, anti-TSH)
What it is: TSH is released by the anterior pituitary, which then stimulates the release of thyroid hormones (T3, T4) from the thyroid gland. TSH above the reference range with symptoms present is diagnostic of hypothyroidism, and below is hyperthyroidism. TPO and TG antibodies cause the thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s, anti-TSH is more commonly present in Graves’.
What it means: Deficient thyroid function affects egg quality, embryo quality, and implantation rates. Combine that with thyroid antibodies, and there’s an increased risk of miscarriage.
TSH 0.32-4.0 mIU/L
Antibodies should all be negative
The “real” range: TSH should be < 2.5 to prevent miscarriage. A full thyroid lab panel (with individual thyroid hormones) is certainly necessary in cases of recurrent miscarriage.
Have more questions? Meet with me!
Wondering about your own lab results? Need a little help wading through the information and finding the useful parts? I offer a free 30 min consultation to all new patients. Click below to book yours today. I look forward to seeing you soon!
About the Author
at the Toronto Reproductive Acupuncture Clinic.
Acupuncture Helps Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Do you struggle to get to sleep at night? If you do, you’re not alone. While the exact numbers aren’t known, many, many people find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep as long as they want to in the morning. This lack of sleep can become chronic, leading to reduced productivity, lower engagement in life, and even drowsy driving accidents.
Most people who struggle with insomnia feel like they have tried everything. Maybe they’ve purchased a new mattress or invested in a noise machine, but they still can’t stay asleep at night. If this describes you, consider acupuncture as your next step in fighting insomnia. It has been shown to help people sleep in a variety of ways, for several different reasons.
Acupuncture Increases Melatonin
You may know melatonin as a jet lag cure, but it is more than that. Melatonin is the chemical that tells your brain it is time to get sleepy. If you don’t produce enough of it, you will struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. All sorts of things can limit melatonin production, from the blue lights emitted by screens to stress and more.
Acupuncture raises melatonin levels, according to a 2004 study. As a result of the acupuncture they received and their higher levels of the chemical, subjects in the study fell asleep faster, experienced fewer sleep disturbances through the night, and slept longer than they did before they had acupuncture.
Acupuncture Reduces Anxiety
Many people struggle to fall asleep at night because they are anxious. They worry about everything from money to relationships to things that happened during the previous day. It’s like their brains don’t have time to process these things until they are trying to fall asleep.
In the same 2004 study as was mentioned above, researchers found that acupuncture reduced anxiety. People felt less anxious when they were trying to fall asleep, and they experienced less stress in their lives overall. This finding is in line with the relaxing effects of acupuncture that have been documented before.
Acupuncture Pairs with Medication and Herbs
You don’t have to give up your sleep medication or any herbs you use to fall asleep when you try acupuncture. If these are working for you, keep using them. In fact, acupuncture can work alongside these things to improve your sleep even more.
When they are used separately, studies show that acupuncture and medications have similar levels of effectiveness on sleep. However, the combined effect of the two used together produces better sleep then either do when used independently. Similarly, acupuncture combined with herbs results in better sleep than herbs do when used alone. Since acupuncture doesn’t have any long-term adverse effects, there’s no reason not to try it alongside your current sleep aids to see if it produces even better rest for you.
You don’t have to struggle with insomnia anymore. Even if you feel like you’ve tried a lot of things and nothing has worked, consider acupuncture as your next step.
To book an appointment:
For many sufferers of allergic rhinitis, there’s no need to hear a news report detailing the pollen count outside, as their runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes will let them know. Often these symptoms strike in the summer and spring, but some patients also have symptoms due to an allergy to dust, mites or dander, to name a few. This condition is more commonly referred to as hay fever, seasonal allergies, or just plain allergies.
Symptoms typically include sneezing, runny nose, postnasal drip, and irritated eyes, ears, nose and throat. Normally, when a healthy body comes into contact with foreign particles in the air (allergens), the immune system initiates a response to neatly and harmlessly dispose of the allergens-not so for sufferers of hay fever. In their case, the immune system becomes hyperactive and destructive to the body, causing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy explains why this medical condition occurs. It is recognized as a condition that is provoked by an external pathogen (the Western medicine equivalent term is “allergens”), although it generally occurs because the body already has a pre-existing deficiency. For example, some patients with a long-standing lung Qi deficiency are more susceptible to dust, dander, pollen, etc. in the air.
Qi is an invisible, fundamental energy needed for all of life to exist. The Qi circulating in the lungs and its corresponding meridians is called Lung Qi. Meridians provide the pathways on which Qi flows throughout the body. When Lung Qi is not strong, problems with breathing, coughing and general immunity may arise. This is because according to TCM philosophy, the lungs are related to Defensive Qi. As the name implies, this Qi functions in the same capacity as our immune system.
The nose is the sense organ corresponding to the lungs, so when there are blockages in the lung meridian, the nose also may be obstructed. The emotions associated with the lungs are grief and sadness. Sometimes after crying or an attack of allergic rhinitis, one may experience a stuffy nose, red eyes and irregular breathing, which reflects the strain on the lungs. A good way to counter these symptoms is to concentrate on deep, regular breaths. This can help stabilize the emotions as well. In general, aerobic exercise is an excellent way to strengthen Lung Qi, which in turn helps strengthen general immunity.
Dietary recommendations according to TCM suggest restricting the amount of dairy products, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods, in an effort to keep the body from producing too much phlegm. Phlegm is a thick, sticky substance that can worsen the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Drinking a warm herbal tea after meals, or in between meals, can also help lessen the production of phlegm. There is a saying in TCM that states, ‘phlegm is produced in the stomach but stored in the lungs.’ This is why diet plays an important in role when combating allergies.
Acupuncture treatments may be used year-round, even if your allergies only occur in certain seasons or in the presence of certain allergens. When your symptoms are not active, your acupuncturist can treat any underlying deficiency you have. When they are active, your practitioner can help bring relief from any of the issues you may be currently experiencing.
Call today to schedule your appointment with Amanda Barone, Registered Acupuncturist 905.553.9255 or book online www.besthealthacupuncture.com
Happy Lunar New Year! Welcome the Year Of The Dog 🐕 If you are born in 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982 or 1994 this is your year to SHINE!
Based on 5 Element Theory this is an Earth Dog year. This is a good year to ground yourself and reconnect with nature 🌍
The colour associated with the Earth element is Yellow, so yellow will be the lucky colour this year ⚂
Dogs are known for their loyalty and this will be a common theme this year. Think: loyalty, honesty, friendship and being responsible for the welfare of others (i.e service dogs).
Negative traits of a dog are that they can be impulsive and aggressive. So this year you may find it difficult to control your emotions. But just as a dog can be trained, you too can train yourself to keep your cool in stressful situations.
Dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend” making people born in the year of the dog to be awesome friends to have. Consider yourself lucky if you have a dog-person in your life!
Wishing you all the best for the year ahead!
This Valentine’s Day we are sharing our love of Acupuncture with you by offering a discount off an Initial Visit for New Patients or a Re-assessment for patients who have not been at the clinic in the past 6 months.
- Red beans
- Red apples
- Red lentiles
- Red dates