Have you been trying to conceive for a while without success? There could be an issue with your fertility that you are unware of.
Experts say that the average woman’s fertility peaks in her early 20s, and while this isn’t a proven fact, it is known that as women begin to age, the ability of their ovaries start to decline, and the quality of eggs can deteriorate.
In order to get a full picture of your fertility, a great place to start is an ovarian reserve test. Through a series of examinations, including ultrasound scans and blood tests, a doctor can assess the performance of the ovaries. This fertility test can highlight a number of reproductive issues which may be a barrier to getting pregnant.
Here are four things that an ovarian reserve test can tell you about your fertility:
If you have a low number of Antral Follicles
Antral follicles are contained within the ovary. Each one is full of fluid and contains an immature egg, known as an oocyte. While the number of antral follicles can’t give 100% accuracy on your total egg store, it can give a good indication of how many eggs you have left.
Remembering that ovarian reserves decline with age, an antral follicle count between three and six is considered low. Through a transvaginal ultrasound, the ovarian reserve test determines the number of follicles present in each ovary. However, finding out you have low ovarian reserves does not mean that you won’t conceive.
If you’re nearing menopause
Undertaking an ovarian reserve test can help your doctor to diagnose early menopause – when a woman’s periods stop. For most women, menopause begins between the ages of 45 and 55, but for a select few, oestrogen levels can decline earlier than usual, causing their ovaries to stop working. However, you should be aware that this can also happen due to cancer treatment.
The fertility test examines the levels of Follicle-Stimulating Hormone, or FSH, in the blood or urine. FSH is the hormone which drives the growth of your antral follicles. If you’re experiencing symptoms such at hot flushes and a lack of periods, an elevated level of FSH in your blood could indicate early menopause.
Another hormone which is crucial to fertility levels is Anti Mullerian Hormone, or AMH. This hormone is produced by your antral follicles, and therefore the levels of AMH in your blood are considered a good indication of your remaining egg supply.
While FSH tests must be conducted on a certain day for complete accuracy, AMH tests can be done on any day of the menstrual cycle and won’t be affected using any contraceptive pill.
Carrying out this fertility test can be extremely beneficial if you’re considering undertaking IVF, or any other form of fertility treatment, as AMH helps to determine your chances of success.
If you could be suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, affects around one in five UK women, and more than half of those diagnosed displayed no symptoms.
Where women without PCOS produce antral follicles containing immature eggs, those suffering with PCOS have follicles which are under-developed, and so unable to release the potential egg.
Symptoms include irregular or missing periods, difficulty getting pregnant, oily skin or acne, and excessive hair growth. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PCOS, however there are fertility treatments which can support women suffering with the condition to conceive.
If you’re concerned about your fertility levels, and are looking for a way to put your mind at ease, an ovarian reserve test can help to determine any issues which might be stopping you from starting a family. It’s always advised that before undertaking any fertility test or treatment, you should consult your doctor for advice.