Ovarian Reserve Testing Not A Good Indicator Of Fertility


According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, tests estimating ovarian reserve do not accurately predict short-term chances of conception.

An ovarian reserve refers to the number of remaining eggs that a woman has prior to menopause.

“Women are born with a set number of eggs that gradually declines through the reproductive years,” said Esther Eisenberg, M.D., of the Fertility and Infertility Branch of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “This study suggests that testing for biomarkers of ovarian reserve does not predict the chances for conception in older women still of reproductive age.”

As women age and their egg supply diminishes, ovary cells secrete less inhibin B and anti-Mullerian hormone, two substances that are considered indicators of ovarian reserve. The ovaries also release more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) just prior to ovulation.

Tests for anti-Mullerian hormone levels are frequently used in fertility clinics since it’s assumed women with a lower ovarian reserve will be less apt to have positive treatment results. Home fertility tests measuring FSH are commercially available as well.

For the study, investigators enrolled 750 women, aged 30 to 44 years who had been trying to conceive for 90 or fewer days; women with known fertility problems were ineligible. Participants provided urine and blood samples, and used home pregnancy tests to monitor for conception.

After going through six cycles of attempting to conceive, the researchers found no significant difference in the chances of conception between those with normal and low levels of anti-Mullerian hormone. The results were similar after 12 cycles.

Further, chances for conception did not significantly differ for those with high or normal FSH levels after six or 12 cycles, nor was any association made between inhibin B levels and conception.

“Our study suggests that younger women with biomarker levels indicating lower ovarian reserve should not become anxious that they won't be able to have a baby,” said Anne Steiner, M.D., lead study author and professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Photo credit: Esparta Palma


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