The pituitary gland in your endocrine system uses gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to stimulate the production of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These gonadotropins (hormones) make the sex hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. GnRH is vital to your sexual maturity, sex drive and fertility.
Everyone makes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When you’re an adolescent starting puberty, increasing levels of this hormone stimulate the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
FSH and LH are gonadotropins (goh-NA-doh-TROH-pinz). Gonadotropins are essential to your reproductive health. They help your sex glands (gonads) mature and function. Gonads in people designated female at birth (DFAB) are ovaries and in people designated male at birth (DMAB), they’re testicles.
Your healthcare provider may also use these terms to refer to gonadotropin-releasing hormone:
In the female reproductive system, GnRH indirectly stimulates your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone. These are the predominant female sex hormones that play a key role in ovulation and conception (your ability to get pregnant).
In the middle of your menstrual cycle:
In the male reproductive system, GnRH stimulates the production of:
Your endocrine system is responsible for producing GnRH. Nerve cells (neurons) in your brain’s hypothalamus gland make and release GnRH into your blood vessels. The hormone then travels to your pituitary gland at the base of your brain. GnRH stimulates your pituitary gland to make and release follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
GnRH levels are naturally low in children and rise during puberty. Afterward, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone control GnRH levels. Your body makes less GnRH when your sex hormone levels are high. It makes more GnRH when sex hormones are low. The one exception is during ovulation when a female’s body makes more GnRH and estradiol.
An overproduction of GnRH is rare. Elevated levels may increase your risk of pituitary adenomas. These noncancerous (benign) tumors can cause your body to make too much follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. As a result, your body may make too much estrogen or testosterone. In children, high GnRH levels may cause precocious (early) puberty.
Conditions associated with low GnRH levels in females include:
Conditions associated with low GnRH levels in males include:
A blood test can measure levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. This requires a simple blood draw. You don’t have to fast (not drink or eat) before getting this blood test. However, people who are menstruating may need to get a blood test during a certain time in their menstrual cycle (period).
A GnRH stimulation test can help determine high or low production of GnRH. During this test:
Results above the normal range suggest early puberty.
These actions can keep your endocrine system healthy and functioning:
GnRH medications can stop your pituitary gland from making the hormones that stimulate the production of sex hormones.
These medicines include:
Healthcare providers use GnRH medications to treat prostate cancer in people designated male at birth, as well as these conditions in people designated female at birth:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your body’s production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) affects your sex hormone levels, libido and fertility. In children, too much GnRH can bring on early puberty, while too little hormone can delay puberty. You need GnRH to make follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. These hormones (gonadotropins) stimulate the production of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Healthcare providers also use GnRH medications to treat certain cancers and other conditions.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/18/2022.
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