When menopause is imminent, the production of the follicle stimulating hormone speeds up in an attempt to rescue estrogen, which is waning drastically. When a woman is getting close to menopause, her hormones begin to fluctuate wildly and at times her body is no longer producing sufficient amounts of estrogen. When this happens, the brain detects that estrogen levels are sub-par and it instructs the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, to start producing FSH.
The Pituitary Gland
A woman’s body, through efforts made by her brain, does not relinquish its reproductive capacities without a battle. The body keeps producing FSH even when a woman is in her late 40s and early and mid 50s. More and more FSH is produced by the pituitary gland in an attempt to get the ovaries to produce a good egg follicle and to continue producing estrogen, which the body has done, most times effortlessly, throughout a woman’s reproductive life.
When a woman is in her prime reproductive years, her FSH level is low, between 5 and 25 mIU/ml, according to Epigee.org. The FSH level rises every month during a woman’s normal menstrual cycle as a sign to the body that it is time to ovulate. Before menopause, the increase in the FSH level activates the ovary to release egg follicles, after which the FSH level drops as the body readies itself for a period or a pregnancy.
When a woman’s FSH levels are higher than 25, this indicates that a woman is very close to menopause, according to Epigee.org. During peri-menopause, the period of time that precedes menopause, FSH levels continue to rise because a woman’s body is still making the effort to ovulate. When a woman ovulates, an egg is produced and is ready for fertilization, at which time FSH levels decline; however, during peri-menopause, ovulation sometimes does not occur (even though menstruation does) because the hormones are in flux and progesterone, which is required for ovulation, isn't produced. When there is no ovulation (anovulation), the FSH level keeps rising instead of declining. When a woman stops ovulating entirely, this means that menopause is close at hand. When a woman’s FSH level is 50 or higher, this indicates that she is in full menopause, according to Epigee.org. The menses have ceased and conception is no longer possible.
Women are born with a specific quantity of eggs. These eggs age right along with the woman. If an egg is produced in a peri-menopausal woman, it may not be of good quality because it is old. At some point, there aren’t any workable follicles left in a woman’s body. The pituitary can release large amounts of FSH, but ovulation does not going to occur. After menopause, a woman’s FSH level will stay high the rest of her life.
FSH self-tests are available and can be done by either testing your saliva or urine. Generally, these tests are about 90 percent accurate. The urine tests are FDA approved, according to Epigee.org. The saliva tests are a bit less accurate and can be altered by factors including cigarette smoke, certain foods, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy.