Egg quality and ovarian reserve: what you need to know
When women face fertility problems, we often hear about egg quality and ovarian reserve. These terms usually refer to the probability of the embryo implanting in the uterus.
But what does this mean? And how important are these terms?
What is ovarian reserve?
Ovarian reserve is the technical term for the number of eggs a woman has. A woman’s ovarian reserve is assessed via ultrasound and various hormone tests. One of these hormones tests is for Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH), a hormone that helps indicate if a woman has a lot of eggs or not. The higher the amount of AMH found in a woman, the more eggs she has. Another test is FSH levels on the third day of the menstrual cycle. If levels are high, it means the body is producing more FSH in an effort to stimulate the ovary.
If the ovarian reserve is low, the woman may have more difficulty getting pregnant.
What is egg quality?
Egg quality consists in the ability of the egg to be fertilised, to multiply, to implant in the uterus and develop into a baby. In women over 40 or with high FSH levels, eggs may appear normal but rarely divide beyond the 8 cell stage and have difficulty implanting.
This is the most important factor in egg quality and ovarian reserve. Women after 40 may have reduced number of eggs and often, the eggs that are available, appear normal, fertilize normally, and undergo initial embryonic cleavage in a normal manner but have difficulty implanting.
What can you do to improve the quality of your eggs?
A woman is born with all of the eggs she will ever have. Egg health is crucial to fertility, so each egg can mature, ovulate, fertilise, implant and finally, develop into a baby.
The amount and quality of the eggs are genetically determined and reduce over the years, but the environment the eggs are growing in can be affected by lifestyle factors.
Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc