Growth Hormone (GH) is a special hormone produced in the body that earned its name due to its role in cell reproduction, tissue regeneration, and stimulating new cell development in humans. Growth Hormone has a number of medical uses, including treating growth disorders and infertility in both men and women. Growth Hormone is now used by doctors to stimulate ovarian production of follicles to develop into viable eggs, improving fertility rates. Although research into using GH as a fertility treatment is still in the developing states, it has been shown to be an effective therapy in certain cases and when combined with other forms of fertility treatment.
What is Growth Hormone?
Despite its common name, Growth Hormone plays a number of important roles in human development and cell formation. In men, GH is produced solely in the pituitary gland but in females both the pituitary gland and the ovaries produce GH.
Growth Hormone is sometimes known by its medical name, somatropin. It is often marketed under the name Humatrope. Most human growth hormone used for medical treatment is extracted from human cadavers and is referred to by the abbreviation hGH (human Growth Hormone).
Growth Hormone and Ovarian Production
The application of hGH, in conjunction with other hormones, has been demonstrated to stimulate the ovaries into producing viable eggs. In women, hGH also works in combination with other hormones to help convert androgen to estrogen. Therefore hGH, in conjunction with the hormones IGF-1 and IGF-2 (insulin-like growth factors), work to stimulate the maturation of ovarian follicles into viable eggs.
hGH also works to dampen down apoptosis, the so-called “death program” that the body uses to discard unneeded eggs during the menstrual cycle. Working with IGF-1, hGH therefore stimulates follicular growth in the ovaries. Research has demonstrated that hGH treatments in women works in conjunction with FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) to promote higher levels of fertility.
Medical studies have analyzed eggs harvested from female cows and determined that eggs with higher levels of naturally-occurring hGH are more fertile than those with lower levels of hGH. Therefore, it has been demonstrated that hGH directly improves the fertility level of eggs by stimulating and working in conjunction with other hormones to help eggs mature.
Treating Female Infertility with Growth Hormone
A number of different therapies currently exist for treating female infertility. One path to improving fertility in women is by the use of ovarian stimulants. Many drugs, including letrozole, clomiphene, as well as hormones like gonadotropins have been used to stimulate the ovaries. GH is increasingly being used for the same purpose in treatments that also include the administration of other substances.
The latest research into GH and female fertility have suggested that mixing growth hormone with certain substances like menotropin or the hormone chorionic gonadotropin is a method of improving follicle growth in the ovaries. This therapeutic approach has been tested with women suffering from forms of hypogonadism with some success, leading to higher fertility rates with less use of menotropin necessary.
It is also theorized that GH affects the size of the uterus itself. Although GH has been shown to successfully improve fertility rates in some women suffering from infertility issues, there is no conclusive data to suggest that administering GH has any benefit for women who have unsuccessfully attempted IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments. Nonetheless, many fertility specialists are now testing the use of GH in conjunction with other IVF treatments to improve fertility levels in women who have previously failed to conceive after undergoing IVF treatment. This form of treating female infertility has not yet been evaluated by the FDA and is still in the experimental phase.
Some women who have had long-standing infertility issues combined with a proven history of low GH levels have benefited from GH treatments. Research is still being conducted to determine the optimum dose of GH to improve fertility. Currently, the doses administered to infertile women range from 0.9 milligrams to 1.8 milligrams per week, resulting in mixed results.
Despite the uncertainties inherent in any developing science, it has been demonstrated that the administration of GH in conjunction with other treatments has shown some success in improving fertility in women. Nonetheless, using GH as a primary infertility treatment is not yet recommended for all women and more research is definitely warranted.