What is the role of the pituitary in fertility?
Located in the middle of the base of the skull – and lined up with the bridge of the nose – the pituitary gland produces chemical messengers called hormones that control other glands in the body and regulate hormone levels in the blood. The pituitary hormones are secreted into the blood, travelling through the blood vessels until they reach their specific target organs. This branch of medicine is called endocrinology.
A number of different hormones are released by the pituitary. There are four main hormones that relate to your fertility:
- Gonadotrophs (G FSH): In women, these are hormones that stimulate the formation of follicles in the ovary, which is where the egg matures during an ovarian cycle (the changes which happen in the ovary during a menstrual cycle).
In men, these hormones trigger the production of sperm in the testicles.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH): In men, this is responsible for triggering the production of testosterone.
In women LH triggers oestrogen and progesterone production and prompts ovulation, which is the monthly release of an egg.
- Prolactin (PRL): usually found in women, this hormone stimulates the breasts to produce milk.
High levels of PRL may sometimes cause infertility by interfering with the normal production of other reproduction-related hormones.
- Thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH): released by the pituitary, these hormones interact with the thyroid. This is a gland which sits in the neck and controls your metabolism, chemical reactions which manage energy levels, growth, and activity in the nervous system. Too much or too little TSH can affect a range of body functions, including the regularity of a woman’s period, to erectile function in men. It can also contribute to increased feelings of anxiety and cause a decrease in your sex-drive, if the levels aren’t quite right.
Pituitary gland problems are relatively rare, however, if your pituitary is not working properly hormonal imbalances occur that can impact your fertility.
If you suspect something is up, the starting point is usually a simple blood test to check your hormone levels. Gynii Me can help you find an appropriate endocrinologist with pituitary gland expertise.