You may have read in the press a lot recently about ‘egg counting’. This is misleading because you cannot actually ‘count’ the number of eggs you have left. However, what you can do is use a test that assesses what your egg reserves are likely to be.
How the test is done
At the Zita West Clinic we can check your fertility status with our Plan Ahead Fertility Home Test Kit. A key part of our Plan Ahead service is a quick and easy-to-use pin-prick based blood test that assesses your AMH (Anti-mullerian Hormone), a substance produced by the ovaries. The level of AMH correlates with your ovarian reserve. Your ovarian reserve declines with age.
This AMH result will not however, tell us about the quality of your eggs but we do know that this too declines with age. As a basic principle, if your AMH does come back low indicting low reserves but you are in your late 20’s early 30’s the number of eggs you do have are likely to be chromosomally normal – your egg quality should be good. The older you are the more chromosomally abnormal your eggs are likely to be. This is why it is harder to get pregnant at an older age.
“A big positive with home testing is that it can make you take action sooner rather than later.” Zita West
The positive side to home testing is that it can make you take action sooner rather and later. However, each woman has a different fertility age and sometimes these tests create more concern than necessary. A low AMH test does not mean to say you won’t get pregnant. It is only a vague indicator of your natural fertility potential; there is simply not enough research to decipher a trend as we have seen some women with an extremely low AMH level get pregnant naturally. Remember, there are so many different shades of grey in fertility; AMH only tells you one part of a very unique and complex picture.
To do or not to do….
You always need to think ahead. For every test there is always a result. I have seen so many women devastated when they get a result they’re not expecting or have been told by a professional that they’re never going to get pregnant. If you’re not in a relationship and do not want a baby alone, you need to think carefully about taking this test and whether it is the best thing for you. I have seen single women panic and rush to get their AMH levels, only to cause great repercussions in future relationships.
Where it is useful is that it can predict how well you’re likely to respond to IVF drugs, which can help you to decide whether to start planning fertility treatment.
The service we offer at the Zita West Clinic, is a home test kit which includes a detailed questionnaire. Once the results come in, there is someone at the end of the phone to give you advice and help develop a plan of action if one is necessary.
Antral Follicle Count
Further investigation is sometimes necessary and this would normally take the form of an ultrasound scan that measures the antral follicles to estimate your ovarian reserve. This is called an Antral Follicle Count (AFC). Antral follicles are small resting follicles on the ovary, about 2-8mm in diameter that indicate how many primordial follicles the ovary contains. Inside each primordial follicle is an immature egg that has the potential to develop in the future. The AFC is a representation of the number of eggs left – not an absolute number.
So, despite speculation in the media, there is no definitive way to ‘count’ how many viable eggs a woman has left. Whatever stage you’re at, I believe that with the right help and support you can have a much clearer view of your fertility and what steps you need to take, so you can stop ‘counting’ and start acting.