When you’re trying to get pregnant, you’re willing to give anything a shot—especially when you keep hearing your fertility is going downhill with every passing minute. And since we know that women are born with a finite number of eggs that decreases each month, it makes sense that a test that shows how many you have left would give you a better idea of how likely you are to conceive, right? Well, apparently not.
A new study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has found that ovarian reserve testing can’t actually predict a woman’s likelihood of getting pregnant. Ovarian reserve testing relies on a measurement of certain hormones, which are thought to roughly indicate the number of eggs a woman has left. The test is commonly offered in fertility clinics to women who are concerned about having enough viable eggs left to get pregnant.
But when researchers looked at 750 women between the ages of 30 and 44 who had no history of infertility and had been trying to conceive for up to three months, they found that those whose hormone levels were normal were just as likely to conceive as those whose levels indicated a low supply of eggs. The study looked at levels of three different hormones—inhibin B, anti-Müllerian and follicle stimulating hormone—all of which can help predict how many eggs a woman has. Unfortunately, it seems that none of them can actually predict how likely she is to get pregnant.
After all, quantity of eggs isn't the only important factor in conceiving. No matter how many eggs you may have, you only need one good one to get pregnant, so quality matters.
Anne Steiner, one of the study's authors and a professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the study should offer some comfort to young women who are found to have a low ovarian reserve—they shouldn’t feel anxious that they’ll struggle to have a baby after all.
It's also important to note that, if you were relying on the results of an ovarian reserve test to figure out if you should start freezing what eggs you have left, it might not truly offer an accurate snapshot of your fertility. Unfortunately, age is still one of the best indicators of your fertility, but ask a fertility specialist about other tests, such as a transvaginal ultrasound to examine your reproductive organs, to gauge your chances of conceiving, and talk to your doctor about how to get yourself in the best shape for having a baby.