You can count your eggs

A new blood test helps gauge your ovarian reserve

You can count your eggs

Source: Best Health Magazine, Spring 2008

Canadian women are having children later in life than ever before, even though it means they may be gambling with their fertility. Now, however, with the launch of Plan Ahead, a new mail-order test that measures ovarian reserve, women can better assess their odds. ‘Plan Ahead gives women important information about the way their ovaries are aging and the possible impact on fertility,’ says its developer, Dr. Bill Ledger, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Sheffield, England.

How it works

The test itself requires a small blood sample that is taken on the second or third day of a woman’s period by her physician and sent to one of the company’s affiliated labs for analysis. Results are returned to the customer by mail within a few weeks.

Plan Ahead checks the levels of three hormones in the blood to approximate ovarian reserve, the number of eggs remaining in the ovaries. (Doctors have used one of these hormones, FSH, to monitor ovarian function for many years, but Plan Ahead combines it with two other hormones’AMH and inhibin B’to make the measurement more accurate.) The result is then compared with the average range for women of the same age. If a woman’s ovarian reserve is low, meaning she has fewer eggs than expected for her age, she may choose to try for a baby sooner rather than later. This could mean couples can avoid IVF treatment by using the information to time their attempts to conceive, Ledger contends. ‘They may also avoid the tragedy of childlessness because they ‘left it too late.”

Fertility specialists agree that there is a need for better tools to assist couples with family planning, but they are also quick to point out that ovarian reserve isn’t the only indicator of reproductive health. ‘A woman shouldn’t assume that everything will be fine just because her ovarian reserve is good,’ says Dr. Togas Tulandi, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McGill University. Other factors can lead to infertility, he says, such as problems with the fallopian tubes, uterus or sperm quality. Still, Plan Ahead gives women a new chance to peer into their reproductive future and, if they wish, plan accordingly.

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