The frustration you feel when you are trying to conceive but nothing is happening is overwhelming. You aren’t sure what’s wrong, but you know there must be a reason you aren’t able to conceive. If you’ve been actively trying to conceive for one year (six months if you are over 35) without results, it’s time to see a fertility specialist and find the reason why you simply can’t get pregnant.
There are all kinds of reasons for infertility, and your diagnosis indicates the type of treatment. Some women experience a condition called low egg reserve or diminished ovarian reserve. This condition occurs when your ovaries produce too few eggs or eggs that are not viable for fertilization. This condition greatly impacts your odds for a healthy pregnancy.
What is Low Egg Reserve?
If you were born female, you are born with all of the eggs you’ll ever have (About one million!) and by the time puberty rolled around you had about 300,000 eggs in reserve. Throughout their reproductive years women ovulate around 300 to 400 eggs. As women age their viable egg supply begins to dwindle. That’s why pregnancy becomes more difficult the closer you get to menopause.
Of those who seek fertility treatment between 20%-50% receive a diagnosis of low egg reserve. Aging reduces the number of eggs you have, but there are other factors which affect your egg reserve and your fertility. They are:
- Radiation Treatment
- Disease of the Fallopian tubes
- Previous Ovarian Surgery
- Pelvic Infection
- Autoimmune Disorder
- Early Menopause
- Certain Genetic Abnormalities
- Unexplained Diminished Ovarian Reserve
Symptoms of Low Egg Reserve
Typically, the first sign you may have a low egg reserve is the inability to conceive. Although in some instances there are other somewhat vague symptoms such as:
- Amenorrhea (absence of one or more periods not due to pregnancy)
- Menstrual Cycles (shorter than 21 days)
- Heavy Periods
If you experience any of these symptoms and haven’t been able to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (six months over 35) it’s important that you speak with your physician.
How is The Condition Diagnosed?
If you have any of the above symptoms along with your age, lifestyle and the inability to become pregnant after trying for six to 12 months, your physician may suspect low egg reserve.
There are a few different ways for your doctor to diagnose low egg reserve. On or about the third day of your menstrual cycle, your doctor draws blood to measure your hormone levels, specifically the follicle stimulating (FSH)/estradiol and the anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) levels. These hormones are necessary to normal, healthy ovulation.
Those who have higher FSH and lower AMH than normal most likely have low egg reserves. AMH reflects the number of eggs in the body. Your doctor assesses these hormone levels, along with a transvaginal ultrasound to observe the number of visible follicles before making an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment for Low Egg Reserve
If your doctor determines you do have a low egg reserve, please don’t despair. There are treatment options available, depending on the degree of your egg reserve.
For those individuals who are borderline with diminishing egg reserve conventional IVF offers the most success. Those who have multiple failed IVF treatments due to poor response or women with a very low reserve may benefit from the mini-IVF protocol.
Those who have very low egg reserve are excellent candidates for donor eggs with IVF. Eggs from a donor are healthy, typically from a younger woman. Donors are screened, and both donor and recipient remain anonymous. Some people use healthy donor eggs from a close friend or family member. The choice to use healthy donor eggs increases the success of IVF for those who have a low egg reserve.
What You Can Do
For those concerned about low egg reserve the best thing you can do is make sure you are as healthy as you can be. Stop smoking and avoid alcohol and other unhealthy substances. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight. Make sure you get some form of doctor-approved exercise and take doctor-approved supplements.
Even though a diagnosis of low egg reserve is, in itself, stressful, find healthy ways to deal with your stress. Get out in nature, practice meditation, take a yoga class and consider discussing your diagnosis with a qualified therapist. Most importantly, contact LA IVF for a consultation to discuss your fertility. Together we will work on achieving your goal of growing your family.