New fertility test detects number of eggs women still have left

TORONTO – It doesn’t turn back the passing of time, but a simple blood test could make it easier for women to decide if it’s the right time to have a baby.

Doctors have developed a new blood test called AMH that can measure a woman’s fertility, a significant marker for women contemplating starting a family.

AMH, or anti-mullerian hormone, is a hormone released by follicles in the ovaries. Since we deplete these over time, women are born with about one to four million eggs, 500 of which are ovulated.

By age 52 women run out of eggs – higher AMH levels indicate higher ovarian reserves. Ovarian reserves are the number of immature eggs that a woman has.

According to Dr. Tom Hannam at the Hannam Fertility Centre in Toronto, while AMH testing is only a part of the fertility puzzle, past studies in Europe about the test indicate a pattern that shows its efficacy.

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“What’s exciting about this test is that it’s easy,” said Hannam. “You can do it whether you are on the pill or not, you can do it anytime on your cycle. That single blood test will tell you how many eggs you have.”

The cost of the test varies from clinic to clinic, but typically runs from $65 to $95. Hannam says that his clinic has now developed a new fertility program that mainly helps patients seeking this test, in response to increasing enquiries from single women and others weighing their pregnancy and parenthood options. Most clients are women in their mid 30s.

Hannam may be onto something. Between 1991 and 2009, the number of ?rst-time mothers in their 30s and 40s climbed nearly every year, from 23 per cent to 37 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. What’s more, the number of babies born to women aged 35 to 39: it doubled over an 18-year period and tripled among women aged 40 to 44.

Dr. Ken Cadesky, founding partner and the director of the LifeQuest Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Toronto says for him, AMH testing is one of the many other useful fertility tools.

“For certain women who find out at a relatively young age, let’s say at age 35, that they’re quickly running out of eggs and they had no intention of wanting to get pregnant in the next year or two, [the test] can be a life changing event,” he said.
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Hannam explains that while the test itself is extraordinary, the focus also has to be about what one chooses to do with the results.

“It helps women set expectations for themselves personally and where they are on the fertility spectrum. It’s not always easy news to hear,” said Hannam. It wouldn’t be (a test) that I would do without some thinking behind that because the results can be profound. It can change our view of ourselves and what we expect from this life.”