What Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Is and How It Works

syringe and GnRH agonist vial with Lupron on glass dish, used during IVF treatment
Rafe Swan / Cultura / Getty Images

GnRH is an acronym for gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This hormone is released by the hypothalamus in the brain.

GnRH acts on receptors in the anterior pituitary gland. GnRH signals the pituitary gland to release the gonadotropin hormones follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

FSH and LH then act on the ovaries in women and on the testes in men. They trigger the ovaries to mature and ovulate eggs, and, in men, trigger the testes to mature and produce sperm.

FSH and LH also stimulate the ovaries and testes to release their own hormones.

  • In the ovaries, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are produced.
  • In the testes, testosterone and estrogen are released.

GnRH is released in pulses and not continuously.

In men, these pulses come at a pretty consistent rate.

In women, the frequency of the pulses varies depending on where the body is in the menstrual cycle. For example, just before ovulation, the GnRH pulses are more frequent.

Other Names for GnRH

  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH)
  • Luteinising-hormone-releasing hormone
  • Luliberin (intravenous medication that acts like GnRH in the body)
  • Gonadorelin (intravenous medication that acts like GnRH in the body)

Testing With Gonadorelin

Gonadorelin is a medication that acts like the hormone GnRH in the body. It may be used in medical testing or as a treatment for delayed puberty or infertility.

Testing usually involves receiving injections of this hormone at a specific interval.

First, you’ll have a blood draw, before injection with the hormone. Then, at a specific time, injection of gonadorelin just below the skin into the fatty tissue. Next, after a set amount of time, you’ll have your blood drawn again. This procedure – injection followed by blood draw – will be continued. The results will then be analyzed in a lab. 

The test may be done in children with delayed puberty or adults with suspected hormonal imbalances.

Treatment With Gonadorelin via Lutrepulse Pump

Women who are not ovulating may be treated with gonadorelin via a Lutrepulse pump. This is done if a lack of GnRH is the cause for anovulation.

Men who are not producing sperm may also be treated with a Lutrepulse pump.

The pump delivers a measured dose every 90 minutes over a period of weeks.

After treatment starts, in women, it usually takes two to three weeks for ovulation to occur. After ovulation, treatment usually continues for another two weeks through the luteal phase.

GnRH-a Are GnRH Agonists and Antagonists

During IVF treatment, your fertility doctor needs to control the ovulatory cycle. Otherwise, the eggs can be ovulated too early. They would not be able to be retrieved and fertilized in the embryology lab if this occurred. This is why you may need to take a GnRH agonist or GnRH antagonist.

Both of the medications produce a temporary menopausal state. The difference between the drugs is that a GnRH agonist first produces a surge in the hormones FSH and LH and then they stop. A GnRH antagonist doesn’t produce that initial surge.

During IVF treatment, you would then give yourself injections of the hormones FSH and LH to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.

GnRH agonists include:

  • Lupron
  • Synarel
  • Suprecur
  • Zoladex

GnRH antagonists include:

  • Antagon
  • Ganirelix
  • Orgalutran
  • Cetrotide

GnRH agonists may also be used to treat endometriosis and fibroids.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Cancer Institute. NCI Drug Dictionary.

  2. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Inducing Ovulation: A Guide for Patients.

  3. Hodgson R, Bhave Chittawar P, Farquhar C. GnRH agonists for uterine fibroidsCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;2017(10):CD012846. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012846

Additional Reading

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.