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"Hormone levels like that of a menopausal woman"

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
This is for my sister. She is 32 and has a frequently nursing 29 mo. She has been wanting to ttc for the last few months, but her period hasn't returned. But every month she gets cramps and pms symtoms with no blood. So she went to the Dr, who did a blood test to check her hormone levels and they came back as very very low...The Dr said her levels were similar to a woman in menopause. Which obviously caused my sister great distress. The Dr said she seemed to think it was b/c she is still nursing her dd, who nurses every few hours. But she had trouble conceiving the first time, it took over a year, and she is now concerned that she won't be able to conceive, and is very concerned that her period still hasn't returned. And is very very frustrated. She has tried to cut back the nursing a bit but her dd is also quite a minimal picky eater, and she doesn' really want to cut her off too drastically.

She is taking Maca, and Vitex tincture, although I don't think regularly. Does anyone have any advice I can give her? I am going to suggest to her today to go see a herbalist, after reading some other posts...but anything else? Has anyone had this experience? I know she is dying to have another child, and I feel so bad for her. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you!
post #2 of 22
What kind of Dr ordered the test and what exact blood work was done. There are different "hormones" so knowing the specific tests that were done, and the specific results are important.

If what you posted in your OP is the quote of what the Dr told her, then he leaves much to be desired.
post #3 of 22
The same thing happened to me--I wanted to start trying to get pregnant with our 3rd child...still nursing our second at the time. I finally weaned her (she was almost 3) and my period would not come. I also had been having hellacious hot flashes and pms and cramps but no periods. I had to use fertility meds to get pregnant with my first two kids, and wanted to go on them again to get pregnant again, but was puzzled why my period was not coming and I was having all of these hot flashes.

I went to my doctor and she tested my FSH, LH, and estrogen levels. She called me at home and told me I was *postmenopausal* a few days later and I almost fainted. I was 33. I thought it was only because I had been nursing for so long, and would snap out of it--but unfortunately after much research I realized that was an unlikely scenario. You see, it is common when women are breastfeeding to have hormone levels a *little* out of whack--like a few points higher or lower than normal. It is totally abnormal to have them like I did (FSH 69, estrogen less than 10). After talking to my doctor and doing tons of online research (and of course re-testing hormone levels several times to rule out lab error) I realized that I had "Premature Ovarian Failure".

Unfortunately women with POF are not able to use fertility meds. The only treatment option (to get pregnant) is egg donation. We opted to adopt our daughter from China instead. I am now 38 and doing well on HRT.

Have her check out www.pofsupport.org and www.earlymenopause.com to see if she fits the medical criteria for ovarian failure. I hope she does not--but just in case it might be a good thing to look into.

post #4 of 22
I never had my hormones checked while nursing so I have no info there, but I thought I would share that for several months before I actually got my period back, I would have all the typical PMS symptoms, just no bleeding. I also started getting ewcm back at about the same time as the pms type symptoms started. I have talked to several women in my bfing support group who have had the same type of thing happen also. Maybe there is hope that it will return soon.
post #5 of 22
I have been told the same thing as your sister. I was tested early in my cycle though which I found out was wrong. YOu should have blood work done after o-ing, preferably around 7dpo. to see if you can sustain a pregnancy. I have forgone going to the doctor or specialist for now, so unfortunately I don't have much more info.
post #6 of 22
depends on what hormones are being tested. Progesterone should be tested at 7dpo, while estrogen and FSH should be tested at cd2 or 3. Prolactin, and thyroid levels can be done on any cd.

But if someone isn't cycling there is no frame of reference to use.
post #7 of 22
Originally posted by SvadhisthanaMama
depends on what hormones are being tested. Progesterone should be tested at 7dpo, while estrogen and FSH should be tested at cd2 or 3. Prolactin, and thyroid levels can be done on any cd.

But if someone isn't cycling there is no frame of reference to use.
Yes--this is all true. Day 3 of your cycle to check FSH and estrogen, but later for progesterone. But the thing is---if you are showing POSTMENO levels at any point in your cycle then that is NOT normal. My level of FSH 69 (acutally it was in the 100's when tested again several times) would never be normal at any point of any woman pre-meno. And I was not having my period--but hotflashing....when that is happening any day of the cycle you can be tested. I have had Premature Ovarian Failure for 5 years now, and obviosly never recovered from it...as is the case with the majority of women that have it.
post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
wow, thank you all for your replies. I truly had no idea about pof. I talked to my sister about what everyone has said and she is going back to her Dr. to get checked again, and to find out just what was checked last time, and the levels, because she didn't even know that. So thank you.

And I really appreciate everyone opening up about this as well, it must be a very difficult and painful thing to go through. Thank you for helping me out.
post #9 of 22
Lisa, I was told that nursing was the reason for my menopausal results. Is that not possible from what you know? I would really appreciate any information you have on comparing nursing levels vs. menopause levels.
post #10 of 22
Hi Keri,
I will try to explain what I have learned--but it is pretty complicated. It is not normal to have a menopausal FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) while nursing. Do you have a high FSH? What is the number? I would be able to better answer your question if I knew your exact test results.

Some women do have very low levels of estrogen when nursing--could even be as low as menopausal levels...although that is pretty rare--but it does happen. But if you have a normal FSH and LH, but just meno-leveled estrogen levels then you are probably fine. But if your FSH levels are in the meno range then that is in no way "normal".

As I said before, I was pretty shocked at my diagnosis. I had no risk factors for POF (no auto-immune issues, previous cancer, chromosomal problems--just infertility in my past). I soon learned that the majority of women don't have these risk factors that have POF. And I was actually pretty darn lucky that I had done infertility treatments earlier in my life and had 2 children before my diagnosis--most women who have POF are diagnosed just as they are starting to try and get pregnant...or even sooner in their teens.

The way that I dealt with my condition was to reasearch it to death. I spent hours online looking up info on it, and saw two fertility specialists in our area (at UCSF and Stanford Infertility) to see if there was any way my body could "snap out of it" or I could do fertility treatments. Unfortunately the answer was *no* to both questions. Well, I could have done egg donation, but at that point we were ready to move on to adoption--which has been a huge blessing for us.

I also had a phone consult with Dr. Larry Nielson at NIH (National Institutes of Health) as he is doing a huge study on POF. I quizzed him about if my long term nursing could have somehow "caused" my POF--either temporarily or permanently. He said an emphatic "NO" to that. I worried because I did nurse my daughter for almost 3 years and weaned just prior to my diagnosis. He said that my nursing was probably surpressing some of my meno symptoms, and that is why the hot flashes came charging in when I weaned Samantha. He also encouraged me to be retested--which I did 5 times...and my FSH was always very high in the menopausal range...69-100+. At one point it dropped to 39, but that is still firmly in postmeno range.

If you have any other questions please feel free to ask. Here is some info on hormone levels while lactating:
General Summary of Hormonal Changes(1)

6.2. Breast-feeding is associated with high plasma concentrations of prolactin, at least at the onset of lactation, the levels correlating to some extent with the number of suckling episodes 12). The prolactin response to suckling declines with time post-partum, but if suckling frequency is maintained at a high level basal levels may well remain above normal for 18 months or more (2, 3) (see fig. 15).

Blood levels of follicle-stimulating hormone FSH) are necessary for ovarian follicular growth and development, and quickly return to normal menstrual cycle levels within a week or two post-partum. At no stage during lactational amenorrhoea do FSH levels appear to be inadequate for ovarian function. Pituitary levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) are very low immediately postpartum, but by 15 to 20 days blood levels have increased significantly and remain throughout lactation on the lower side of normal.

During lactational amenorrhoea in fully breast-feeding women, the response of LH to GnRH stimulation is diminished, while the FSH response is normal. In the same situation, women fail to show a positive feed-back response, with an increase in LH and FSH to exogenously administered estrogen, whereas they show an enhanced negative feed-back effect with prolonged suppression of LH levels in contrast to normally cyclic women. In lactational amenorrhoea, ovarian estrogen and progesterone secretion is below normal, and is equivalent to that seen in post-menopausal women in spite of normal levels of FSH.
post #11 of 22
Wow Lisa! Thanks so much for all that great info! To let you know, my FSH was low ((5.1), corresponding to follicular stage. LH was 4.5, same. It ends up that it was progesterone that caused the nurse practitioner to tell me about being menopausal, but she said due to breastfeeding. The number was 0.5, which postmenopausal is <0.7, but follicular says <1.4. The test was done on cd7, so in line with the follicular stage, but it's the progesterone that got me thinking.

Thanks for taking the time to help me sort this out. Hopefully it's for nothing and I am pg right now, but just in case!
post #12 of 22
Hi Keri,
Your FSH looks great--so that is a big relief. The FSH is the big predictor of meno. Yes, your progesterone is low...but having low progesterone is not a signal of menopause. I actually had very low progesterone when I was trying to conceive my first two kids (this was before I had POF) and had to take both Clomid and natural progesterone suppositories in order to get pregnant both times. I am very lucky that this combo worked twice for me before I ended up with POF.

Take care Sweetie
post #13 of 22
Thanks Lisa! It ends up I do need to keep trying (AF showed up this morning), so I can take the next step now. I apprecaite all your info!!
post #14 of 22
oh wow, this thread is so interesting to me. i'm wondering now if i have this same condition.

here is my situation:

i'm 29 (just turned) and my son will be 2 next month. i started having signs of returning fertility a year ago but never ovulated or got a period. this summer i started reducing the number of times noah nursed during the day, then nightweaned him, then we weaned all together on september 9th. still nothing.

i've been to an re who gave me a physical (said everything felt great) and ran a few tests- thyroid, prolactin, and glucose and insulin. tests came back fine. he put me on provera for 10 days. took the last provera pill on sept 19th and it's been a month now and still no period. the re wants me to go on a month of hrt and see what that does, but i'm hesitant to try that. it seems like a lot of hormones. so i've started going to an acupuncturist and she's got me taking a bunch of herbs too.

on friday i called the re to see if i could have a fsh test run, and the re and pa who i've been working with weren't there but another re said they would want me to do the hrt first and then do a fsh on cd3 (assuming i'd even get a period, that is). from what i've read here and on the links yall have provided here it doesn't matter what cd they do the test on. the pa i'm working with is supposed to call me back on monday to talk more about it.

so any thoughts, ideas? any other tests i should requests? do you think i should try the hrt or keep waiting it out?

bellasmum, i hope everything works out okay for your sister. will you keep us posted?
thank you!
post #15 of 22
This is also similer to PCOS, like the gal above said the specific hormones checked really matter. I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and it took almost a year of quite frequent mating to concieve my dd. Does your sister have any PCOS type symptoms such as; abnormal hair growth, acne, obesity, previous history of abnormal menses, or diabetes?[SIZE=1][SIZE=1][SIZE=1]
post #16 of 22
Hi Chrissy,
I don't understand why your doctor would want to put you on HRT and then test your hormone levels? Because HRT WILL affect your homones...I was tested while on HRT (FSH, Estrogen level) and everything came back normal---but this is a "false" reading due to the hormones. I went off all HRT and was right back to postmenopausal. The specialist I saw at Stanford said that if I am on HRT any testing that we do will be incorrect--even up to a month after I go off.

What is the purpose of your doctor wanting to give you HRT and then test your hormone levels? Maybe you could ask him that first. I would ask him if you could simply take a FSH, Estrogen, LH test right now--and see where you are at hormonally. You may be fine, but just low in estrogen and or progesterone. You would only know if you had Premature Ovarian Failure if you took these tests OFF HRT.

You are right--it does not matter what day of your "cycle" you test if you are not having a period at all. I hope that you can get some answers soon. Please take care.

post #17 of 22
Thank you SO much for your post! I spoke with the PA this morning and she is afraid that I might get an "artificially" high FSH level right now if my body is trying to ovulate. But then if that is the case they can always test me again and see what it is then. So I had blood drawn for the FSH this morning and I also started on the HRT this morning. I should get the results by tomorrow, but of course I am hoping they will have them this afternoon. Then if it seems high they want to test again on cd3. But I guess on cd3 (if I even get a cycle) the readings wouldn't be accurate b/c of the HRT? ARGH!

Oh shoot, but i just reread your post and realized I should've asked for those other tests too (estrogen, progesterone and LH) and I didn't. Oh well, this will be a start at least.

Mama2kimmy, If my FSH levels come back normal then I will be fairly certain that I have PCOS. I have several of the symptoms of that although my insulin and glucose levels were normal, so
apparently I am not insulin resistant.

Now to wait,
post #18 of 22
okay so my FSH was 6.5 which is totally normal, right?
so that is a relief.

now to figure out what exactly is wrong with me and get it fixed. i really really think it's pcos.

thank you thank you lisa for your wealth of information.
post #19 of 22
Originally posted by lawyORmama?
okay so my FSH was 6.5 which is totally normal, right?
so that is a relief.

Yes, Chrissy--that is a very good FSH number I am relieved for you too.

post #20 of 22
THank you LIsa!
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