Follicle stimulating hormone or FSH is one of the most important hormones in a woman's reproductive health, according to Just Mommies, a website devoted to providing accurate fertility information to women. FSH is produced by the pituitary gland and needed for ovulation to occur. An elevated FSH occurs when the number and quality of a woman’s eggs decrease. Measuring a woman's FSH levels can give doctors an indication of the condition of a woman’s eggs and her ability to have a successful pregnancy.
Advanced Maternal Age
Advanced maternal age proves a common cause of a high FSH level. Twenty percent of women have their first child after the age of 35 in the United States, according to the South Jersey Fertility Center, an infertility clinic located in Marlton, New Jersey. These women cite pursuing a career, obtaining financial security and finding a suitable mate as some reasons for late pregnancies. While a woman's ability to conceive deteriorates slightly after the age of 30, the odds of conceiving after the age of 40 rapidly declines. Women are born with a set amount of eggs and every time they have a menstrual cycle the amount of eggs that they have left decreases. As a woman ages her eggs also age decreasing her ability to conceive and elevating her FSH level. A women's body increases the amount of FSH in the body as a way to balance hormones and jump start ovulation. As a woman ages her body has to make more FSH to balance her hormones. The closer that a woman gets to menopause the more her egg supply declines until she no longer produces any eggs. During the perimenopause stage, a woman's body increases FSH in an attempt to produce more fertilizable eggs but once she enters menopause she is no longer able to produce viable eggs. During menopause a woman's FSH may remain elevated in a fruitless attempt to restart ovulation and produce viable eggs.
Poor Egg Quality
Poor egg quality can elevate FSH levels in women, according to FertilityFactor.com, a website that provides quality information on fertility topics. Egg quality refers to how prepared a woman's eggs are to develop into embryos once they become fertilized. An egg must have the correct amount of chromosomes and the ability to combine those chromosomes with sperm in order to survive and develop. When a woman's eggs do not contain the right amount of chromosomes then her FSH levels will rise. A woman with a poor quality of eggs will see an increase in her FSH level as the body tries to improve the quality of her eggs. When a women starts producing poor quality eggs, her pituitary gland tells her body that additional FSH is needed to improve the quality of the eggs. While poor egg quality can cause elevated FSH levels as a woman ages, young woman can also experience high FSH levels as a result of poor egg quality. Young women can also experience high FSH levels as a result of health problems or genetics. Endometriosis, smoking, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can decrease the quality of eggs and raise FSH levels.
Premature Ovarian Failure
Premature ovarian failure can cause a high FSH level in women. Premature ovarian failure occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs before the age of 40, according to ConceivingConcepts.com, a website that provides concise, up-to-date fertility information to women. When the ovaries stop working properly because of the loss or dysfunction of their egg follicles then premature ovarian function results. Most women develop the condition before they turn 32, but it can be diagnosed as early as 14 in some girls. Women with premature ovarian failure have an elevated FSH level that proves similar to someone experiencing menopause. As a woman’s egg matures it produces the hormone estrogen which then sends a message to the brain to stop producing FSH. If a woman can no longer produces eggs then her FSH level will continue to rise resulting in a high FSH.