Monday, October 3, 2022

Fertility & You – Heard of an AMH Test? How To Plan For a Fertile Future (Even If You’re Unsure If You Want Babies)

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Kelly Bertrand goes on an egg-cellent adventure (sorry) to see what’s happening in those ovaries of hers, and whether her future is fertile. After all, knowledge is power… and the first step is a simple blood AMH test.

This story is part of our ongoing series with Fertility Associates – for more stories on fertility, click here

Capsule x Fertility Associates

Ah, the age-old question – do you want kids?

It’s one that comes up increasingly as you get older, and for some reason when you get to 30, it seems like everyone thinks they have an inherent right to know (despite the fact we know we need to stop asking people what their plans are with their uterus).

Although that’s wildly annoying, there’s no denying that everyone’s nosiness does make you start thinking about your reproductive future, and if you’re 30 and single like me it can be a little more complicated.

So to put it out there, yeah, I probably want kids at some point. I’ve always considered myself quite lucky in the sense that I don’t think I’d be too cut up if it never happened for me, but I also sometimes picture myself down at the netball courts cheering on my daughter, or watching my son play his first league game. (God, I hope they like sport.)

Of course, when you haven’t met the right person to have said kids with, things are a little more abstract. And as every woman knows, you have to take into account those damn eggs, because annoyingly they’re not as receptive to their owners having careers/ finding the perfect penis/just not being ready to look after another human.

As you’ll probably know, females are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, which is around 600,000  – and they don’t regenerate or multiply throughout your lifetime. You lose eggs as you age and our egg quality declines, which is why your fertility declines as you get older. And by the age of 35, you have around 10% of your eggs left. Eggs also decline in quality, so just like every other bloody area of life, youth matters.

So while I try to find Mr Right (Mum, if you’re reading this believe me I am TRYING) or until a time I decide I’m going to do it alone, I’m still keeping one eye on ‘dem eggs. And in order to do that, you have to actually get acquainted with them.

I’ve always believed that knowledge is power in any area of life, and your fertility should be no different, especially if you’re not sure what your path might be. It’s a sentiment Fertility Associates shares, so off I popped to my local clinic for the first chapter of finding out just what is going on in that little uterus of mine.

Kelly Bertrand tests her fertility with an AMH test
“So while I try to find Mr Right (Mum, if you’re reading this believe me I am TRYING) or until a time I decide I’m going to do it alone, I’m still keeping one eye on ‘dem eggs.”

What is an AMH test?

The first step of that journey is by taking an AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) test, a measure of a hormone produced by the eggs you have left. It’s considered the best test for estimating ovarian reserve – essentially, how many eggs you have left. It also predicts how many eggs you’re likely to obtain in an IVF cycle, and can also identify if you’re likely to go into menopause early.

And good news kids – the AMH test simple blood test. It costs between $90-$120 if you’re in the North Island, and for some reason if you’re in the South Island, it’s free.

So after my blood test, I met with Fertility Associates’ Dr Olivia Stuart, who would take me through the results and tell me what the implications were.

“It’s great you’re doing this – it’s very empowering when you have all of the information you can get,” she tells me.

I have to admit, I was nervous – surprisingly nervous. It’s a big thing, fertility, and even if you don’t know if you even want to use those eggs of yours to make a human, the prospect of not being able to hit me at a level I wasn’t expecting. But, I reasoned, if there was a problem, it’s good to know now and have the best shot possible at fixing it.

And then my second thought was, ‘If I haven’t actually been able to have a baby all this time, I’m going to be annoyed with all the money and energy spent on birth control.’

Turns out, every cent I ever spent on contraception was worth it – out of a possible 50, my AMH test level was a 46.4, meaning I have a higher number of eggs than the average for people my age.

“It also means you’ll probably experience menopause later,” says Dr Olivia, which I’m not sure is a good thing or a bad thing.

“But this means you have the normal amount of time to have a biological child, and no intervention is required at this stage.”

But what would it mean if my AMH test was lower than what it should be?

As you’re walked through your results, you’re presented with a graph that shows where you and your egg buddies sit on a continuum. If you’re in the yellow or red zones, your doctor will start talking through your options – the first of which is egg freezing. Dr Olivia likens this option to an insurance policy.

“And, you know, if you knew you definitely wanted a baby, but you didn’t want one right now for whatever reason, you could freeze your eggs now,” she tells me. “Thirty-year-old eggs are always going to be better than older ones, so if you knew that’s definitely what you wanted, you have more chance of having a baby later on. It’s just preserving your options.”

AMH test - Do You Want Kids?
I mean you can always have both – but it’s about knowing all your options, says Kelly

Makes sense. But if you do have a lower AMH, the process is the same – it just might mean you have to have more goes at egg freezing than with someone who has a higher level.

“If you have a low AMH, if you had one of 10 or lower, we’d be looking to get on average between two to 10 eggs per cycle,” explains Dr Olivia. “It just means they might have to have a few rounds of egg freezing cycles to get to the recommended 20 eggs, which gives them an 80% chance of having a baby later on.”

So, how do I feel after taking the test?

Well obviously, I feel grateful that things will more than likely be straightforward for me. I have several close girlfriends who have been told the exact opposite, and while they both of them have gorgeous wee bubs now, I know their road was more complicated than they would have liked.

But that’s the key – they knew. Both of them were able to protect their fertility through various routes, and I know they’re very grateful to have been armed with the information they had in order to plan their families.

I feel much more empowered and in control now. I’m not someone who likes to leave things to chance, or leave things unknown (I’m even that person who will Google a movie ending because I like to see how everything gets to the end).

I still might not know if I’ll have my little netball prodigy, but I do know now that my future is fertile.

And there’s no greater knowledge than that.

Do you have questions about your fertility? Book a free fertility consultation with Fertility Associates. They offer free 15 minute phone consultations with their expert fertility nurses, who are there to answer your questions and help you decide your next steps.

And check out our chat and Q&A session with Fertility Associates on egg freezing here!

 fertilityassociates.co.nz

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