Does This Common Fertility Test Actually Paint an Accurate Picture?

A recent study raises concerns about a blood test used to measure a woman's fertility. Could this test be less effective than we thought?
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There's this idea that, where fertility is concerned, younger is better. But age may not always tell the whole story.

In fact, a commonly used test to measure egg supply may not tell the whole story, either. Recent research published in JAMA indicates something surprising about the effectiveness of this test: After examining blood and urine samples from 750 women, researchers found reason to believe results from the popular antimüllerian hormone (AMH) test may not accurately predict a woman's odds of experiencing infertility.

AMH measures ovarian reserve, and we've long held on to the idea that this may be the best predictor of fertility. This test has been administered among women who'd like a clear picture of their odds of conceiving—but those who receive less-than-favorable results shouldn't be discouraged, according to researchers.

The study's sample was composed of women aged 30 to 44 with no history of infertility. The study's authors adjusted their findings to account for other factors that can affect fertility (like smoking, hormonal contraceptive use, or being overweight or obese) and when they looked at the whole picture, they discovered that diminished ovarian reserve doesn't necessarily mean a woman's chances of conceiving are reduced. In fact, when they compared the outcomes among women with diminished ovarian reserve against those with normal AMH results, they found no real difference in their odds of getting pregnant within six cycles of trying to conceive. The researchers also observed conception rate within 12 months of trying to conceive—and again, results didn't differ between those whose results indicated low ovarian reserve and those with normal results.

As always, it's important to remember that this study is based on a relatively small sample, and it's not quite enough for us to throw the idea that AMH tests can give experts an idea of your fertility out the window. But, if you're hoping to conceive and are discouraged by your own levels, well...keep in mind that they may not tell the whole story of your fertility.

"Our study suggests that younger women with biomarker levels indicating lower ovarian reserve should not become anxious that they won't be able to have a baby," researcher Anne Steiner, M.D. said, according to a National Institutes of Health release for this news. 

So let's remember that age is just a number...and ovarian reserve may be, too.

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