Ovarian

AMH blood test- everything you wanted to know about this common blood test but were afraid to ask

AMH testing, a Q&A: Princeton IVF blog
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Common questions and answers about AMH testing

What is AMH?

Antimullerian hormone, commonly known at AMH, is hormone that is secreted by follicles in the ovary. It was initially studied for its role in reproductive development but is now widely used as a test of ovarian reserve.

What is ovarian reserve?

Ovarian reserve is a measure of the aging of the ovaries, and how many eggs the ovaries are likely to produce when given fertility medications. AMH, day 3 FSH and estradiol levels and antral follicle counts on ultrasound are commonly used measures of ovarian reserve.

What does a low AMH level mean?

A low AMH level, which most doctors consider a level of less than one, indicates that the ovary has fewer eggs available to stimulate. Women with low AMH levels, will usually make fewer eggs when given fertility drugs for IVF or insemination cycles.

Does a low AMH level mean that I am less likely to get pregnant?

AMH is a great test to determine how a woman will respond to medications, but it not as good at predicting pregnancy rates. It is true that women who produce more eggs are more likely to get pregnant, but particularly in young women, who do not need a large number of eggs, there does not seem to be reason to be concerned.

What does a high AMH level mean?

A high AMH level suggests that you are likely to respond very well to fertility injections and may be more likely to become hyperstimulated when taking them. It is also is considered a sign of polycystic ovaries (PCO) although AMH levels are not currently used to make the diagnosis.

Can the AMH level be used to predict if I will have trouble getting pregnant in the future?

Not really. Despite the early hope that AMH could help women know in advance if they might have infertility in the future, it turns out there is no evidence that AMH can predict future fertility.

Could your fertility be a gauge of your health?

Infertility may mean health risks in the future

Research suggests that women with infertility may be at higher risk for health problems in the future

As a fertility specialist, I hear this all the time. I am healthy and take good care of myself, so there should be no reason I am not be getting pregnant. Naturally, we go on to discuss how one's fertility can be quite separate from your general health, as is quite often the case. Perhaps, though, that is not completely true.

A study out of the University of Pennsylvania and the National Cancer Institute followed women long term for health issues. 

They were mostly followed for cancer related issues, but were also asked about a history of infertility as a part of the study.

What they found though was interesting, including:

  • overall, women with a history of infertility had a 10% risk of dying over the 13 year study time
  • women with a history of infertility had a 20% increased risk of dying from cancer
  • women with a history of infertility had a 44% increased risk of dying from breast cancer
  • women with a history of infertility had a 70% increased risk of dying from diabetes, even though they were no more likely to have diabetes
  • uterine and ovarian cancer were no more common in women with a history of infertility

Does these mean the infertility causes poor health? Probably not, but it does mean that infertility could be sign of underlying health issues.

It means that women with a history of infertility, whether they were treated or not, whether they were successful or not, need to pay attention to their general health. 

 

 

Eggs and fertility after menopause?

Making Eggs after Menopause: Princeton IVF blog

Researchers in Greece report being able to generate eggs from women who have already gone through menopause.

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Doctors in Greece may have found a way to make postmenopausal women grow eggs.

As reported in the New Scientist, fertility researchers have been looking into a new way of potential of helping women in menopause continue to produce eggs. As a women ages, the number and quality of her eggs inevitably declines. By the average age of menopause at age 51-52, there are relatively few eggs left in the ovary, and those that do remain, generally are of such poor quality that ovulation just simply ceases. When this happens, fertility disappears, menstrual periods stop and the symptoms of the lack of estrogen such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness get worse. These symptoms of menopause actually start years before the periods stop but the potential for pregnancy, even if it small, remains.

What if there was a way to reverse this? With this in mind, a team in Greece tried using something called platelet-rich plasma to see if it was possible to regenerate eggs. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) has been used with some success to try and regenerate injured bone and muscle. Among other things, it contains a mixture of growth factors, chemicals found throughout the body that are involved in the natural processes of inflammation and tissue repair. The idea was to try to use the PRP to regenerate ovarian tissue and somehow activate the dormant eggs to grow.

Regenerative medicine for reproductive medicine

The researchers did find some success, and a number of these women did begin to ovulate again. In one patient, they were even able to harvest and fertilize some of these eggs through IVF. The embryos were frozen for later use, so it is unknown whether this procedure can actually result in a pregnancy.

There are still lots of unanswered questions before we can consider this an option for infertile couples in menopause, early or otherwise. We know that the eggs are generally of poor quality in women in their late 40's and when there is fertilization that embryos are generally unhealthy. These embryos rarely implant, and when they do the risk of miscarriage and genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome is quite high. It is not uncommon for women in above 45 to produce enough eggs to do IVF, but it is uncommon that any are good enough to result in a healthy pregnancy. Would the eggs from PRP be any different?

While it is possible that the PRP may improve the quality of these eggs to the point where they can result in a healthy baby, it is just as likely (if not more so) that they they will not. We don't know if the center that reported this data will be able continue to get patients to respond as time goes on or if other fertility clinics will be able to replicate these results. We also do not know if the benefits are short acting or long term, and if they are long acting what the implications are for these patients. Does it mean that a 60 year old can now conceive on her own or how will the continuation of menstrual cycles beyond the natural time affect a woman's risk of diseases such cancer or heart issues? The implications, both medical and ethical, could be enormous.

At this point, it is still just an interesting idea. Still, the prospect of being able to restart a menopausal ovary is intriguing to fertility specialists and their patients.