LH Levels: Understanding Normal Ranges and The Benefit of Testing
The luteinizing hormone (LH) is vital to the female menstrual cycle and the reproductive process. It not only controls ovulation, but it also helps with the early stages of pregnancy.
For many women, producing LH at a normal rate is not difficult. However, it is common for others to struggle with LH levels that are either above or below the normal LH range. This can understandably be frustrating for couples trying to conceive (TTC).
If you are planning a pregnancy or finding it difficult to become pregnant, the best way to better understand your LH levels is through testing. This information not only helps you to better plan around your fertile window, but it can also help to expose certain problems if your levels measure in a range that is too high or too low.
To help, here is everything you need to know about what the luteinizing hormone (LH) is, what a “normal” LH range is considered to be, how to test for LH at home or at the doctor’s office, and what to do if your LH levels are too high or too low.
It is important to note here that both men and women produce the luteinizing hormone (LH). There are certain cases where men may want to test their LH levels, however, this article is focused only on testing for LH in women.
Understanding Luteinizing Hormone
In women, the luteinizing hormone is a fertility or pregnancy hormone that is produced in the anterior pituitary gland. Often called “LH” for short, this hormone is vital to the menstrual cycle and reproductive processes.
One of the main roles that LH plays in the menstrual cycle is to trigger ovulation (i.e. the release of an egg).
Here’s how it works:
- Approximately 24-36 hours prior to ovulation, luteinizing hormone levels surge.
- This surge in LH then helps to create an environment where an egg can be released into the fallopian tube.
- LH then stimulates the corpus luteum to produce progesterone, which is required to support the early stages of pregnancy if fertilisation occurs.
- After ovulation, LH falls back to its baseline level prior to the LH surge.
Because of its critical role in ovulation and fertility, it is common for women planning a pregnancy to monitor their LH levels over time. This enables them to better understand their fertile window and confirm whether or not their LH levels are within the normal range.
Normal LH Levels and Ranges
LH levels will vary depending on the individual. However, for premenopausal women with a regular menstrual cycle, any measurement between 5-25 IU/L would be considered “normal”.
Although everyone’s situation is different and results may vary, here is a closer look at the most common LH ranges pre-pregnancy and during ovulation, pregnancy, and menopause.
LH levels before pregnancy
Before pregnancy, LH levels can vary depending on which phase of the menstrual cycle you are in. During the follicular phase, LH typically measures between 1.9 to 14.6 IU/L, and during the luteal phase they can measure between 0.7 to 12.9 IU/L. Anywhere within these ranges would be considered “normal” by your doctor.
LH levels during ovulation
Your LH levels will be at their highest just after your LH surge around ovulation (mid-cycle). If you have your LH levels tested around this time, you could expect them to sit within the range of 12.2 to 118.0 IU/L. Again, anywhere within this range would be considered normal by your doctor.
LH levels during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your LH levels will typically drop to a very low level – even below your normal “baseline”. For many women, this can be as low as <1.5 IU/L.
LH levels in menopause
Once you’ve reached menopause, LH remains at a heightened level compared to premenopause. Most menopausal women will have LH levels over 40 IU/L, however, levels ranging anywhere between 5.3 to 65.4 IU/L would also be considered normal.
LH Levels chart
- “Normal” levels for most women: between 5-25 IU/L
- Follicular phase: 1.9 to 14.6 IU/L
- Luteal phase: 0.7 to 12.9 IU/L
- Midcycle/Ovulation: 12.2-118.0 IU/L
- Pregnancy: <1.5 IU/L
- Menopause: 5.3 to 65.4
Testing LH Levels
LH plays such a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle, and there are a number of reasons why you may want to have your LH levels tested.
For example, if you are experiencing irregular periods, your doctor may want to test your LH levels to check for certain conditions like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or a pituitary gland disorder. You may also want to have your LH levels tested if you are planning a pregnancy or struggling to become pregnant. Women experiencing common symptoms of menopause may also consider an LH test to confirm if they are in fact undergoing menopause.
If you or your doctor have decided that LH testing is needed, there are two different ways that you can go about this
- At home with a urine test
- At the doctor’s office with a blood test
Here is a closer look at how both of these options work.
When it comes to at-home testing for LH, there are a few different options to choose from. The first option is to use a traditional at-home ovulation test kit, often called “ovulation predictor kits” or “OPK’s”. This type of test requires a urine sample, and it is designed to confirm whether or not your LH levels are elevated or “surging”. You can then use this information to predict when you may ovulate.
Some of the most common brands of OPK’s that you can buy online or at the pharmacy include the Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test, PregMate Digital Ovulation Tests, and the First Response Easy Read Ovulation Test. Once the test is taken, you will have your results within a few minutes – similar to a pregnancy test. It’s important to note here that with this type of test, you will only receive a qualitative “yes” or “no” answer. You will not know what your numeric LH concentration level is.
Other LH testing solutions, like the Mira Analyzer, can provide you with information beyond a basic “yes” or a “no”. Specifically, it can provide you with your numerical concentration level of LH, similar to what you would receive at your doctor’s office. Paired with the Mira App, you can then test and track your LH levels over several cycles. This information can then be used to pinpoint your most fertile days.
Alternatively, if your LH levels are outside of the “normal” range, you can make an appointment with your doctor to determine if further testing or treatments are necessary for your situation.
At the doctor
In addition to at-home LH testing, there is also the option to have your LH levels tested at your doctor’s office. However, instead of giving a urine sample, this type of test will require a blood sample and unlike OPK’s or the Mira Analyzer, your blood test results may take a day or two to be processed and analyzed.
As an upside, blood tests typically provide you with a more accurate result compared to an at-home test, but it might not be necessary for your situation or goals.
The main benefit of testing at your doctor’s office is that you will be given a numerical value of your LH levels. This information is not something that most standard at-home OPK’s (aside from Mira) can provide. Therefore, if you have been testing at home for several cycles and are still struggling to identify your LH surge, it might be worth having a blood test to determine whether or not your LH levels are within the normal range. If not, you can consult with your doctor about possible treatment plans.
LH level changes
Many women struggle with LH levels that are too high or too low – which can make planning a pregnancy extremely frustrating. However, there are practical solutions and treatment options for getting your LH levels on track and within a normal range.
Here’s a closer look at what both high and low LH levels might mean, and what you can do to address this type of hormonal imbalance.
What if I have high LH levels?
If your results come back and show that your LH levels are above the normal range, this could be a sign of any of the following:
- You may not be ovulating, and/or you may have a problem in your ovaries.
- You could have a hormonal disorder such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- You may have a genetic disorder such as Turner syndrome.
The best thing to do if you are in this situation is to speak with your doctor. They will have a better understanding of your medical history and can provide the most appropriate advice for your individual situation.
What if I have low LH levels?
If your results come back and show that your LH levels are below the normal range, this could be a sign of any of the following:
- You may have problems with your pituitary gland, and/or
- You may be malnourished or suffering from an eating disorder.
To improve your LH levels, there are a few different things you can do both naturally and medically.
In terms of natural solutions, a great place to start is by simply making healthy lifestyle choices. This includes getting plenty of sleep, eating a nutritious diet, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and reducing overall stress levels. You can also try taking natural supplements like D-aspartic acid or Chasteberry, as some women have found these to be helpful for boosting LH levels.
If you have exhausted all natural options and still not having any luck, there are also medical treatments that you can try. This includes estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy, agonist and antagonist of gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists and antagonists, gonadotropins, and human chorionic gonadotropin injections to stimulate ovulation. Again, your doctor will have a better understanding of your background and can speak with you further about the best treatment option for your situation.