Waiting to have a baby, but want to know how much time you have left before you should start trying to conceive? Luckily, a cutting-edge test can reveal your stage of fertile life. Read on to find out more.
Know the Facts about Your Fertilty
It's simply a fact: a woman's reproductive tract functions on a finite timeline. While men continue to produce new sperm throughout their entire lives, a woman's reproductive system operates almost independently in terms of aging. At birth, a girl has all of the eggs she will ever produce, and from the first day of her life these eggs begin to self-destruct and be absorbed into the body through a process known as atresia.
By puberty, it's normal for females to have approximately 300,000 remaining eggs in their ovaries. Only some 300 will mature and be released (one egg monthly) over the next several decades. Each month, in most women a healthy egg ripens and releases into the fallopian tubes in preparation for fertilization.
While women in their thirties may still have a plentiful supply of waiting eggs in their ovaries, the follicles that surround these eggs begin to have a diminished response to hormonal signals as they age.
So, What Does This Mean for My Fertility?
Each woman's body operates on a different timetable. By the age of 40, this ovarian reserve of eggs may be exhausted early in some women, while others will continue to be fertile, become pregnant easily, and have healthy babies well into their fourth decade.
How Can I Find Out if I'm Still Fertile?
An AMH test can help determine fertility. AMH stands for Anti-Mullerium Hormone, the substance which is produced directly by the ovarian follicles. AMH levels do not change significantly in healthy women, so testing to find the AMH level helps pinpoint fertility potential ranging from optimum to very low, all through a simple blood test! AMH is produced in the small ovarian follicles, so blood levels of this substance measure the size of the pool of growing follicles; serum AMH levels correlate with the number of antral follicles, which means that low AMH levels are a predictor of poor ovarian responders and therefore indicate that the woman will have more difficulty producing and releasing viable eggs for fertilization. The AMH test also is a measure of ovarian aging. Women with poor or diminished ovarian reserves typically have low AMH levels.
Why is the AMH Test Better Than Alternative Fertility Tests?
While the old standard for testing ovarian reserve was Day 3 FSH, that test is less reliable because level results can fluctuate based on the woman's cycle dates. The AMH test has proven more stable with results that don't vary cycle to cycle. A big advantage to this test is that it can be administered and accurately measured on any day of a woman's cycle.
Is the AMH Test Right For Me?
Think about your specific circumstances to know if this test is right for you. Knowing your AMH level may be helpful for young women who want to postpone pregnancy to pursue their career or for any other personal reasons, or for women in a later fertile stage who want to have more information about what to expect from TTC.
Gynecologist Dr. Miranda Sterling, M.D. is a graduate of Northwestern Medical School and heads a busy private practice specializing in fertility issues.She believes that women will be able to make a more informed decision about delaying the start of a family if they have the information provided by the AMH test. While fertility generally doesn't begin to decline until a woman reaches her mid-thirties, Dr. Sterling reasons that "those women with low AMH levels at a younger age may come to regret their delay. Young women may have a false sense of security about their fertility, only to later experience challenges and difficulties when trying to conceive. Younger women who take the AMH test will learn if they grow eggs easily and be reassured about the viability of their ovarian reserve. The test can be taken annually, so these women will know when their reserve of eggs begins to show a decline.
If I have High AMH Levels Does That Mean I'll Have No Trouble Getting Pregnant?
Not necessarily. When it comes to fertility there are lots of factors involved (some that are even a mystery to medical professionals) and AMH levels are just one factor. You should note, however, that women with higher AMH levels generally have a better response to ovarian stimulation and are better candidates for successful IVF procedures.
If I Have Low AMH Levels Should I Give Up Hope?
Dr Sterling cautions her patients to refrain from obsessing over their AMH numbers. She reminds them that "we treat patients, regardless of the numbers." While many of her patients repeat the AMH test every year in order to track their individual biological clocks, there are a variety of treatments available to help women conceive. The AMH test is a useful tool that can help women determine and track their fertility potential in order to make a more informed family-planning decision.