Low ovarian reserve
Ovarian reserve refers to the number of eggs that a woman has. This contributes to the likelihood of being able to conceive. With age, it is natural for ovarian reserve to decrease, although there are other factors that could have an impact. Here we discuss what a diminished or low ovarian reserve is, its symptoms, testing options and its importance when it comes to our fertility.
What is low ovarian reserve?
Ovarian reserve refers to the reproductive potential based on the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries. Low (or sometimes called diminished) ovarian reserve is the reduction in reproductive potential due to a number of the remaining eggs. Females are born with a fixed number of immature eggs in their ovaries. These are gradually lost over her lifetime. This process occurs even during pregnancy or when a woman is on the contraceptive pill. The rate of loss may vary and it can be affected by external factors like smoking, which is known to accelerate the loss of eggs. Currently, there are no treatments that can slow down the ageing process in eggs or prevent low ovarian reserve.
What causes low ovarian reserve?
Getting a diagnosis of low ovarian reserve can come as a shock as there are no noticeable symptoms that would indicate if you have it. However, there are a number of known factors that can cause it. These include:
- Tubal disease
- Cancer treatments
- Pelvic infection
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain genetic conditions
How do you test for low ovarian reserve?
The ovarian reserve is usually tested with blood tests of hormones such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-müllerian hormone (AMH); and an ultrasound for checking the antral follicle count (AFC) to give an assessment of ovarian reserve.
Low ovarian reserve and trying to conceive
Low ovarian reserve can be associated with fertility problems, specifically if ovulation does not occur. If you have low ovarian reserve and you know that you’re ovulating, then the Béa Treatment can be a good option. The Béa Applicator places our custom cervical cap against the cervix, holding semen in place for up to one hour. It increases the exposure to the cervical mucus, minimises the contact of semen in the vagina (where the pH can reduce sperm quality) and reduces semen backflow.
Visiting your doctor about low ovarian reserve
If you have low ovarian reserve and are having difficulty trying to conceive, it is a good idea to visit your GP. They may refer you for further investigations or to a specialist for treatment. Some treatment options they might recommend include egg freezing, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or IVF with donor eggs.
If you’re not sure what to discuss with your GP – read our article How to speak with your doctor about fertility for support.