So what is ovarian reserve? What are AMH and your antral follicle count, and what affect can these have on your fertility?
Ovarian Reserve: Your Body’s “Fertility Clock.”
Over time, so long as your cycles continue, the amount of healthy eggs “in reserve” will naturally decline. The amount of eggs you still have in your ovaries at any point in your life is called your “ovarian reserve.”
At any age, a decrease in ovarian reserve can make it much harder to conceive - even when using assisted reproductive technologies like IVF.
How is Ovarian Reserve Measured?
The Antral Follicle Count
During an ultrasound, a specialist can count the number of these follicles in any given cycle to get an idea of how many healthy follicles are likely to remain in total - the general assumption is the higher the number of antral follicles, the higher ovarian reserve.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH)
What causes a diminished ovarian reserve?
Another very common factor that can lead to early reductions in follicle count is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens in a variety of ways - some of the most common things that cause it are a diet that’s low in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in inflammatory foods, physical or emotional stress, and exposure to toxins such as cigarette smoke (both direct and second-hand). Oxidative stress can damage egg cells, causing them to die off before they’re even recruited. If this happens over many years it can have a huge impact on overall ovarian reserve.
The Good News!
Specific herbs and occasionally even hormone precursors such as DHEA may increase antral follicle count, depending on your body’s unique hormone balance. However, balancing and supporting hormone levels, especially with supplements such as DHEA, can have unpredicted and unwanted side effects and should be done only under careful medical guidance.
In addition to these more focused therapies, many of the same nutritional and herbal therapies that preserve egg quality can also help preserve ovarian reserve (click the link for an article all about that!). These healthy changes can have the added effect of increasing overall health and preventing future issues such as heart disease or cancer.