Age can play an important factor in a woman’s ovarian reserve, influencing the probability of her getting pregnant. What is an ovarian reserve? It consists of two components, egg quantity and egg quality, which determine how capable a woman’s ovary is to provide egg cells that are capable of fertilization.
A woman is typically the most fertile between ages 23 and 31, and after age 35, her reproductive ability begins to decline more quickly until it stops functioning altogether. It is important for women of all ages to know about their egg quantity and quality, because the longer they wait, the more their fertility declines. The sooner a woman has an egg check test, the better she can determine the best course of action to conceive, whether she’s looking to get pregnant right away or years from now.
However, just because egg quantity and egg quality are commonly linked together does not mean that they are synonymous with one another. Read on to learn more about their differences, as well as the different tests that women can have to learn more about their ovarian reserve.
The concept of egg quantity is pretty straightforward. A woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever have, and as she ages, the number becomes smaller and smaller. While the number of eggs decreases with age, that does not mean that younger women are in the clear. Some women are born with fewer eggs, making them have a low egg quantity at a much earlier age.
The less eggs a woman has, the harder it is for her hormones to recruit and develop an egg. With irregular ovulation, it can be very difficult for a woman to become pregnant, and with no ovulation, it is impossible for a woman to become pregnant on her own.
Egg quality is the probability of embryo implantation. Just because a woman has a regular monthly period, does not mean that she has a high enough egg quality to result in a pregnancy. If an egg with poor quality is fertilized, the woman does not typically carry the pregnancy to full term. This is because the egg might be unable to implant, or it may implant but not be able to develop properly. Although the quality of a woman’s eggs decreases with age, just like egg quantity, a younger woman should still have her egg quality tested. Outside factors like smoking, radiation, and chemotherapy can reduce the quality of a woman’s eggs too, and decrease the chances of pregnancy.
Egg quality testing is not the same as testing for ovulation. If a woman has been struggling to conceive, it’s important that she schedules a fertility evaluation to help pinpoint the problem. Here are some common tests that are used in an evaluation to determine egg quality and quantity:
- Day 3 FSH and Estradiol Test – This baseline blood test is conducted during the third day of a woman’s menstrual cycle to measure her Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). If the test comes back showing her FSH baseline and Estradiol levels are elevated, this can be an indication off poor egg quality and/or quantity. If the FSH baseline is normal, but there is an increase in Estradiol levels, this could mean that the Estradiol in a woman’s body is suppressing the FSH levels, another possible indicator of poor egg quality.
- Clomiphene (Clomid) Challenge Test – The Clomid challenge is designed to see how efficiently a woman’s ovaries are working. Healthy ovaries will only need a small level of FSH to produce an egg, while a woman who has an issue with egg quality or quantity will need a higher dose of Clomid to achieve the same results.
- Antimullerian Hormone Levels (AMH) Test – AMH is a hormone that is responsible for producing oocytes, or egg cells. This test can be conducted at any time during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Because AMH is only produced in small ovarian follicles, it can be used to try and measure the size of growing follicles in women. This test is commonly used more to determine egg quantity, rather than egg quality.
- Ultrasound – An ultrasound is another test used to determine egg quantity. This test can give doctors an idea of how many eggs remain in a woman’s ovary by seeing how many antral follicles, or resting follicles, are visible. If only a few antral follicles are visible during an ultrasound, it is likely that the woman being tested has a small number of primordial follicles, each which contains an ovum awaiting maturation.
At Reproductive Specialists of New York, we provide an egg check test for women looking to conceive. If you are interested in having your eggs checked, contact us today to request an appointment at one of our four locations.