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More women are having babies later in life. Women are living longer and feeling and looking younger.
However, a woman’s biological clock still ticks away at the same rate as it has always done, and a woman is still considered to be in her reproductive prime in her 20’s.
Over the age of 35 the biological clock speeds up, making it more difficult to become pregnant, even if you have been pregnant before and you’re trying for a second or subsequent child.
Fertility declines after age 35
Around age 35 most women start to become less fertile, and you may not ovulate every month, even if your periods are still regular.
At this age a slight shortening of the menstrual cycle is also common.
There is still a lot you can do to boost your fertility with diet and lifestyle changes and fertility treatment if required. I’ll be putting up lots of blogs and videos on my YouTube channel giving you lots of information on how to do this.
Your egg reserve – how many eggs do you have left?
You are born with about 2 million follicles which reduces to about 750,000 by puberty and by age 45, there may only be 10,000 left.
This also means that by the age of 35 your eggs are obviously older than they were when you were 20.
Every month during your menstrual cycle, about 20 eggs develop ready for ovulation but only one or two will win the race. These are your ‘good quality’ eggs.
As you get older, the chances of having good quality eggs diminishes because your eggs are older and more prone to chromosomal defects which can either prevent fertilization occurring or increase the risk of miscarriage.
Testing your ovarian reserve
There are some tests you can have done that will show you how many eggs you have in store and how much time you have left.
One way to do this is to go for ultrasound testing during the first half of your cycle. The test examines the size of your ovaries and the number of small follicles (developing eggs) that you have.
Another option is to have a blood test that measures a hormone called Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH). AMH is made by your ovaries and helps your eggs to mature each month. The level of AMH indicates how well your ovaries are functioning and represents both the quantity and quality of your egg store.
The lower your level of AMH, the lower your fertility level is likely to be.
AMH and IVF
Testing for AMH levels is also useful if you are thinking about having IVF as it has been used in clinical trials to predict poor response to IVF treatment.
For IVF or ICSI to work, your ovaries have to respond to the drug stimulation by recruiting a group of follicles, so if your AMH is low, then it is more likely that the response will be poor.
Measuring AMH is also useful if you suspect if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as the level is normally high due to the large number of follicles on the ovaries.
Measuring levels of FSH
Another alternative is to measure your levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). FSH is released from the pituitary gland and its role is to stimulate a group of follicles to grow on the surface of your ovary.
FSH should be low at the beginning of the cycle as its usual pattern is to start low and rise throughout the first phase of your cycle.
However, if your FSH level is high at the start of your cycle this means that your ovaries need more stimulation in order to grow follicles for ovulation. This can reflect your ovarian reserve because if there are few eggs, the pituitary gland has got to release more FSH in order to stimulate those eggs, in effect your body must work harder to ovulate.
What you need to know about these tests
The issue with all of these tests is that they measure the quantity and not the QUALITY of your eggs, and the quality of your eggs does matter when you’re trying to become pregnant and you’re older.
The consensus therefore is that AMH is a better marker for ovarian reserve than FSH and is even more consistent as a marker than the ultrasound antral follicle count.
What you can do to improve your chances of becoming pregnant
You can’t change the quantity of eggs you have and if it is found that your egg reserve is low, then you may need to think about other options available such as egg donation, surrogacy or adoption.
BUT if you are still having periods and ovulating most months, it is possible to follow a natural fertility approach (covered in my blogs and YouTube videos) using diet and lifestyle change to improve the quality of your eggs to give you the best chance of conceiving naturally and avoiding a miscarriage.
Online fertility testing
If you would like to test your ovarian reserve or have any other fertility testing you can arrange a number of tests online in Australia through i-screen.
If you would like more information about how to boost your fertility naturally and improve egg and sperm quality, follow my blog below for updates.
I will also put a lot of videos on my YouTube channel which you can subscribe to.