These chemical messengers are secreted by glands then travel round the body telling cells what to do. They’re responsible for everything from hunger to emotions. And – if they’re out of whack – can have a huge effect on fertility. Here are the key ones to know and their roles in conception.
Testosterone: Gives us our male sexual characteristics and is a key player in arousal, libido, erection and sperm production.
Oestrogen: Not just a lady-hormone - men need some too. It helps regulate many factors including testosterone, libido, sexual function, sperm count and seminal fluid.
Progesterone: Regulates oestrogen levels and helps sperm to penetrate the egg by ‘hyperactiving’ their tails.
Luteinising Hormone (LH): Tells your testes to produce testosterone.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): Stimulates sperm production. FSH tests can help discover possible causes of infertility.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): Helps produce testosterone and oestrogen, giving men sex drives and the ability to maintain an erection.
Cortisol: The stress hormone. Too much can lower testosterone, making it hard to get or maintain an erection.
Oestrogen: gives us our female sexual characteristics and regulates the menstrual cycle.
Progesterone: Also regulates the menstrual cycle and is responsible for libido and fallopian tube function. It’s a key hormone in supporting a developing embryo and determines our susceptibility to diabetes and insulin resistant PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
Luteinising Hormone (LH): Responsible for ovulation – releasing the egg from the ovary. This is the hormone monitored by ovulation prediction kits.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): Stimulates the ovarian follicles to produce eggs. Testing it can help diagnose fertility problems, menopause, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and ovarian cysts.
Anti-Mullerian (AMH): Produced in your ovarian follicles. Some clinics test it to find out your ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have left).
Cortisol: The stress hormone. Too much may cause miscarriage or infertility.
Testosterone: Although primarily a male hormone (aka ‘androgen’), we have a bit in our bodies too. It helps build bones and boost sex drives.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): Helps produce oestrogen and testosterone and declines with age.