The hormonal aberrations that occur with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are presented in this review in relation to fertility and conception among women on dialysis. The imbalance in gonadotropin production in dialysis- dependent men and women is characterized by elevations in luteinizing hormone (LH). In women dialysis patients, the normal estradiol-stimulated LH surge does not occur, resulting in anovulation. In men dialysis patients spermatogenesis is impaired, and low testosterone levels cause elevated LH. Infertility in those with ESRD is a culmination of many factors, including impotence and loss of libido, anovulation, and an altered hormonal milieu. Despite these inhibitors of conception, women on dialysis can conceive; pregnancy has been reported in 1% to 7% of women on dialysis in survey studies. The influence of dialysis mode (hemodialysis v peritoneal dialysis), recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO), and dialysis adequacy on the likelihood of conception among patients of either sex on dialysis is unknown. Reduced sexual activity and interest has consistently been reported in the ESRD population. The reasons for this are complex and likely involve the effects of comorbid illnesses, overall health status, body image factors, and hormonal alterations. Nephrologists rarely discuss conception and contraception with their women dialysis patients. Greater attention to these issues is needed.
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