Fertility investigations for women are somewhat different than it is for men. Women are born with a finite number of eggs in their ovaries (known as a womans ‘ovarian reserve’). This means that over their lifetime, women do not produce more eggs.
A women's ovarian reserve is dependent on a number of factors, such as her age, genetic components and environmental influences. There is no set rule for all women, the ovarian reserve can differ greatly between individuals.
Women generally see a significant drop in fertility once they are over the age of 35 but for some women, this process will begin earlier, and for others it will begin later. Ovarian reserve tests can estimate the relative supply of remaining eggs. It is a measure of the availability of eggs that could potentially be fertilised.
Even if you are not currently trying for a baby you may be wondering, or have concerns about your egg reserve. For example, you may be in your 30s and have not yet met a potential partner or your career may be at a stage that is not ideally suited to having a child. For these women, ovarian reserve testing may help inform their choice of whether they can:
- wait longer before trying to conceive
- consider storing eggs / embryos
What does the test involve?
Recent advances in fertility measurement mean that women can have a test to measure their ovarian reserve. An ultrasound scan of the ovaries allows your consultant to visualise little sacs of fluid known as antral follicles, which are then counted. Generally, the higher the number of antral follicles, the better the ovarian reserve.
This, combined with a blood test used to measure your anti mullerian hormone levels (AMH), can help your consultant assess your help you assess your ovarian reserve. Bear in mind that the results are useful in predicting your ovarian reserve at the time of testing but are not predictive of changes in fertility over time.