Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and many women look to do fertility tests to predict their future fertility potential. This can be really useful but it is so important to understand that there is always a result and if the result is not what you are expecting it can leave you in a real panic about what you need to do. Therefore before you test think through what your options may be if you get a low result.
First steps in finding out your fertility potential
As a starting point, any woman seeking an indicator of her fertility potential should try and find out what age her mother was when she had her menopause. Generally, fertility stops up to ten years before a woman has her last period. So, subtracting ten from your mother’s menopausal age will give you a rough idea of when your fertility may be seriously compromised.
An AMH test helps to assess your ovarian reserve which gives an indication of a woman’s fertility potential. Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is a hormone produced by the antral (resting) follicles in the ovaries which diminishes as a woman ages. We use this test at the clinic as part of our Plan Ahead fertility status check. It is a blood test that can be taken at any time of the menstrual cycle and can now even be done at home with one of our Home Test Kits (see below for link to more details). The test however, is only one factor and wont tell you if there are any other underlying factors.
The AMH test gives an indication of your ovarian reserves – it does not tell you about the quality of your eggs. Note: Women who have polycystic ovaries may have a very high reading as the cysts produce an excess of anti-mullerian hormone, so this test is not suitable to assess future fertility. Women taking the pill need to allow at least one cycle after stopping the pill before having a test.
The most significant factor by far is still your age. Older women will have more chromosomally abnormal eggs and therefore an increased risk of miscarriage. A younger woman with a low AMH level is likely to have a much better fertility potential than an older woman with a higher AMH level – the egg quality being the key issue.
Some women find the test useful when they are thinking of having a baby to help determine how long they should try to conceive naturally.
Some women find the test useful when they are thinking of having a baby to help determine how long they should try to conceive naturally. Others use it as an indicator to help decide whether to have IVF. If the test results are not such good news you may need support in interpreting the results and planning the way forward. For some women it may be appropriate to consider prioritising planning pregnancy or even moving to a more assisted route sooner rather than later.
However, we are always concerned for women who do not have a partner and take the test to find out what their future fertility is looking like, because if it is discovered that they have a low ovarian reserve, it can often cause stress and angst in a future relationship.
If we do see a woman who has a low AMH level for her age we explore and plan the next steps to optimise her chances of having a baby. These may include the following:
Five things to consider if you have a low ovarian reserve
An ultra-sound scan to check Antral Follicle Count
Antral follicles are small resting follicles on the ovary, about 2-8mm in diameter. Used in combination with an AMH test, an Antral Follicle Count is an even more reliable way of estimating your ovarian reserve. It also provides a useful indication of how well you are likely to respond to IVF treatment.
If a woman receives bad news about her ovarian reserve, her mindset becomes very negative and she tends to spiral down. Shock and devastation takes over and she can be left feeling helpless. Its easy to fall into a negative mindset and hypnotherapy can provide techniques to help you cope and manage the situation. We still see many women with low AMH scores go on to get pregnant.
We believe that acupuncture may help improve blood flow to the ovaries, as this reduces significantly with age. It also helps women to relax and experience a greater sense of well-being.
Many women we see know a lot about diets but not enough about nutrition in relation to fertility. I’m aware that a woman is born with all the eggs she is ever going to have, but I do believe you can improve the environment that the existing eggs are growing in by exploring and incorporating ‘anti -ageing’ foods and nutrients into your diet.
This is probably the first thing to suffer if you get a low AMH result as you can feel its not going to happen but don’t give up on it.
There’s no doubt that if a woman receives a less than great AMH test result it can be very upsetting. So it’s about being proactive, moving forward and making sure that you are doing everything you can to increase your chances of having your own genetic child before, if required, moving onto other means of assisted fertility such as egg donation.
Find out more about our Home Fertility Test which comes with a FREE consultation to help you interpret the results and develop an action plan should the results show you have a relatively low reserve