IVF and Fertility Specialists Clinic
Egg quality & quantity & the relationship to fertility, infertility and IVF success
Page author Richard Sherbahn MD
Can we test eggs for quality?
We can test egg supply with ovarian reserve testing (mentioned above) but we do not have a test for egg quality.
Patients often say: "My eggs are fine, I don't think I need testing for that." When asked how they know the eggs are fine, the most common answers are;
However, the gynecologist did not do any tests of ovarian reserve, so the patient got information based on an assumption and not based on data. Or, maybe the patient and the gynecologist did not communicate well and there was a misunderstanding about the "egg issue".
When does ovarian reserve and fertility begin to decrease?
The decline in fertility potential in women usually begins in the early 30s and accelerates in the mid to late 30's. Egg quantity and quality in an individual woman can be average for her age, better than average, or worse than average.
When couples try to get pregnant on their own (yes, fertility doctors approve of having a sex life and getting pregnant without our help) a limiting factor will sometimes be egg quality.
She may have regular monthly menstrual cycles and have sex on the perfect day for the sperm and egg to have a date. But if the egg she ovulates is poor quality (a red dot in the figure below) then it will either:
1. Not fertilize
The drawings and discussion below are to help illustrate issues about the relationship between egg quantity, egg quality, age and fertility potential.
For example, if we are doing IVF on 2 women as represented above with the "dots":
If we (randomly - with our eyes closed) dip a soup ladle into the (42 year old) ovary (upper one) and get 4 dots - are any of them green? It is likely that they would all be red - which would result in a failed IVF cycle.
If we dip a ladle into the soup of dots from the ovary with good reserve (lower one) and get 14 dots - are any of them green? It is likely that at least some would be green - which would then be expected to result in good embryo quality, a successful IVF cycle and a live birth. Perhaps there would also be some frozen embryos that could be used later to have more children.
The point is not that a 42 year old should not try IVF and a 28 year old should. This is just to illustrate issues related to egg supply, egg quality, resulting embryo quality and chances for success with IVF and other fertility treatments.
Testing fertility potential in the general population (not infertility patients)
Treatment options for women with reduced ovarian reserve:
|© 1996–2015 Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, S.C. All rights reserved|