Through June, TFC is offering free ovarian reserve screening to new patients, including the AMH test
A new blood test, anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) gives women greater insight into the number of egg-containing follicles growing in the ovaries. Texas Fertility Center research and its clinical application of the AMH test was recently on a KVUE segment with Jim Bergamo.
The interview with Dr. Natalie Burger focused on diminished ovarian reserve, a condition all women go through as they near the end of their fertility. According to a 2008 Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology study, diminished ovarian reserve is one of the most common causes of infertility and is the fastest growing infertility problem.
How AMH testing predicts ovarian reserve
Ovarian reserve is reflective of the number of eggs a woman has remaining in her ovaries. The greater her reserve, ie. the more eggs she has left, the more fertile she is. As women age, they lose eggs at a rapid rate, eventually running out of eggs which results in menopause. Diagnosing DOR is not always easy. Until recently, the most predictive factor was a woman’s age; however several other factors can cause ovarian reserve to diminish more rapidly than normal.
Now, partly due to research performed by the Texas Fertility Center, women can undergo simple testing that can tell them where they are in their reproductive lifespan. If the AMH test suggests DOR, they can then take proactive steps to start a family, optimizing the use of their remaining eggs.
What causes diminished ovarian reserve?
- Autoimmune issues
- Idiopathic, (i.e. unexplained) reasons
- Radiation therapy
- Pelvic surgery
How do we predict future fertility?
The closest science can come to counting eggs contained in a woman’s ovaries involves measuring blood levels of specific hormones.
Traditionally, fertility specialists looked at follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels on day 2 or 3 of the menstrual cycle. FSH is the hormone that causes eggs to mature during a woman’s menstrual cycle. When a woman is young and her ovaries are full of eggs, her FSH level is low. As she ages or runs out of eggs due to other causes, FSH levels rise.
Recent TFC research – presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine – demonstrated that AMH testing is also very predictive of fertility. A woman’s AMH level isn’t detectable until puberty. It then steadily diminishes with age, until it essentially disappears after menopause. Unlike FSH levels, AMH levels remain constant throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle so fertility specialists can perform this test any day of the month.
A very low AMH level indicates that there are few remaining eggs.
A higher AMH level is a good predictor of future fertility. It also suggests a successful response to ovarian stimulation. According to Dr. Burger, determining the true normal range for AMH testing is an ongoing process, as this test is still relatively new. Research like that performed at TFC, however, will go a long way toward validating this test as an accurate predictor of female fertility.
Texas Fertility Center, one of the nation’s leading fertility practices, has performed ground breaking research on the value of AMH as a predictor of fertility. Based partially on our research, more and more fertility practitioners are incorporating AMH levels into their routine fertility evaluations. Contact us to learn more.