What Are Gonadotropins?

Gonadotropins are secreted from the pituitary gland.
Human chorionic gonadotropin, which triggers home pregnancy tests, is one kind of gonadotropin.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 June 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Gonadotropins are hormones which target the gonads, structures involved in fertility and reproduction. In women, gonadotropins are directed at the ovaries, where they play in a role in the production of eggs and eventual ovulation, while in men, these hormones are involved in sperm production in the testes. Abnormalities in gonadotropin levels can lead to infertility, which can sometimes be treated with hormone injections.

One form of gonadotropin is luteinizing hormone, which is involved in ovulation in women and the production of testosterone in men. Another gonadotropin is follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), another hormone which plays a role in the ovulation cycle in women. FSH also plays a role in male production. Finally, chorionic gonadotoprin, sometimes called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is another example of a gonadotropin. Levels of HCG can be used to determine whether or not a woman is pregnant.

These hormones are all produced in the pituitary gland. Production of gonadotropins is triggered by gonadotropin-releasing hormone which is made in the hypothalamus. The endocrine system which regulates hormone production is extremely complex, with a number of interconnections which must function properly in order for hormones to be produced in the right concentrations and at the right time. Disruption of the endocrine system can cause a chain reaction as the system starts to break down.

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Until they are trying to get pregnant, many people remain unaware of the role of gonadotropins in their lives. Couples who experience infertility can become more aware of these hormones than they ever wanted to be. Early screening for infertility can include blood tests to check hormone levels for the purpose of determining whether or not endocrine disruptions are responsible for the infertility. If they are, a doctor may recommend that patients take shots of FSH and HCG.

In women, introducing gonadotropins in medical treatment can regulate the process of ovulation and allow for the precise timing of interventions. In men, sometimes taking gonadotropins can address a low sperm count, which may be the extra boost needed to help a couple get pregnant. Success with gonadotropins in fertility treatment varies, depending on the cause of the infertility. Some couples may get pregnant on the first round because they just needed a little bit of help, while others may require more aggressive interventions to address their infertility. Couples should be aware that fertility treatment can be very stressful, and that it can be helpful to attend psychotherapy during treatment to work through emotions which may arise.

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