Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago
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Ovarian reserve fertility tests - evaluation of egg quantity and quality


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Female age is a very important consideration when estimating the probability for conception because it is a strong determinant of egg quality.

  • A 45 year old can have good quality eggs (for her age) and still be fertile, although this is rare
  • At the other extreme, a 25 year old can have very poor quality eggs and be infertile
  • These are extreme examples. The point is that egg quantity and quality declines in the mid 30s - and faster in the late 30's and early 40s.
  • Egg quantity and quality in a woman can be average for her age, better than average, or worse than average

It would be nice to have a reliable test to determine how many eggs remain and how good the eggs are in an individual woman at a point in time. We have some screening tests but they are not perfect.

  • These tests are often referred to as tests of "ovarian reserve"
  • We are testing the supply (or reserve) of eggs remaining in the ovaries

Do ovarian reserve tests check egg quantity, quality, or both?

  • Ovarian reserve testing can tell us quite a lot about the remaining quantity of eggs a woman has, but it tells us little about the quality of those eggs.
  • Age is the best "test" that we have at this time for egg quality

Egg quality and quantity and effect on success with fertility treatment

Testing fertility potential in women in the general population

Day 3 FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and estradiol (E2) test

By measuring a baseline FSH on day 3 of the cycle, we sometimes get an indication that the women is closer to menopause and has relatively less "ovarian reserve". In other words, if the day 3 FSH is elevated the egg quantity is reduced.

More about day 3 FSH and estradiol testing

More about premature menopause

Clomiphene challenge test

A clomiphene challenge test is a dynamic type of test that can discover some cases of poor ovarian reserve that are still showing a normal day 3 FSH. This test is discussed on the day 3 FSH page.

Response of the ovaries to ovarian stimulation with injectable gonadotropins (FSH)

This is not really a "test" that we do to help us determine egg quantity and quality - it is part of a treatment for infertility. However, the response of the ovaries when the woman takes injectable FSH for stimulation is often very predictive of the egg quantity - and therefore, also the relative chances for success with infertility treatment.

Response to stimulation and antral follicle counts are important predictors of outcome, and are discussed in detail elsewhere.

Anti-Mullerian hormone levels, AMH

Blood levels of the hormone AMH are often used by fertility specialists as part of the evaluation of ovarian reserve.

Provocative tests of ovarian reserve

We can also challenge the ovaries with drugs (hormones) and assess whether they have responded appropriately in order to distinguish women with good ovarian reserve from women with diminished reserve.

For example, the exogenous FSH ovarian reserve test involves giving an FSH injection on day 3 of the cycle and testing both the baseline FSH and baseline and 24 hour post-injection estradiol to see if a normal response has resulted.

If the estradiol response is poor, ovarian reserve and egg quantity are also likely to be poor. The woman is also less likely to be a "normal responder" to gonadotropin stimulation.

In vitro fertilization

This is a treatment for infertility, but at the same time it can give us much useful information about egg and embryo quality. By careful examination of the eggs and embryos during the in vitro incubation process we sometimes get clues about why pregnancy has not occurred previously.

For example, the eggs may demonstrate poor morphology, or may have problems with maturation, or with fertilization, proper cleavage, etc.

Treatment options for women with reduced ovarian reserve:

In vitro fertilization
Lupron "flare" protocol for ovarian stimulation in low responders
In vitro fertilization with assisted hatching
In vitro fertilization with donor eggs
Babies who had our help
 
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