FSH, Obesity and Male Infertility

Men who are overweight or obese may suffer from infertility. A study published in "Fertility and Sterility" found that men carrying excess weight had abnormal levels of testosterone and FSH, decreasing their chances of conception.

How to Lower FSH Levels

Women who are diagnosed with high FSH levels may find they're able to lower them with prescribed hormones. For premenopausal women who aren't trying to get pregnant, birth control pills are frequently used to balance hormones. For women who are trying to conceive, synthetic estrogen is a frequent solution, as well as drugs such as cimetidine, clomiphene, digitalis and levodopa -- prescription drugs often used to alter hormone levels during fertility treatments in an effort to conceive before donor eggs are recommended.

Alternatively or in addition to taking prescribed hormones, women with high levels of FSH may want to consider trying to lower their levels with lifestyle and diet changes. While it's unclear whether a woman's weight directly affects her FSH level, it is known that a woman's weight does influence the levels of hormones in her body and her overall fertility. Women who are overweight (a body mass index or BMI rating of 25 to 29.9) have a 26 percent lower chance of conceiving, and women who are obese (a BMI of 30 and greater) have a 43 percent lower chance when compared to women of normal weight (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) [sources: Boyles; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].

Researchers continue to study the reasons why extra weight affects our fertility, and insulin appears to play a key role. When insulin levels rise in our bodies -- a common side effect of weight gain as well as a precursor to type 2 diabetes -- the body tries to regulate itself however it can, including changing the levels of hormones it produces. When the body overcompensates in this way, reproductive hormones may become unbalanced, and too much (or too little) can impact the body's ability to conceive.

Lowering FSH levels, however, doesn't guarantee a better or increased chance of conceiving, either naturally or with in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. FSH levels should be thought of as one way to understand a woman's ovarian reserve, her potential for conceiving with her own viable eggs, rather than a black-and-white answer to her overall fertility. Remember, FSH levels are just one part of the reproductive package.

For lots more information about FSH and fertility, head over to the next page.