(See also Overview of Infertility Overview of Infertility Infertility is usually defined as the inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy after repeated intercourse without contraception for 1 year. Frequent intercourse without birth control usually... read more .)
Doctors do blood tests to measure levels of hormones involved in the release of eggs and/or ultrasonography to view and count the number of follicles (which contain the eggs).
Treatment depends on the woman's circumstances and age and may include using eggs from another woman. particularly if the woman is over 42.
The number and quality of eggs How Many Eggs? (ovarian reserve) may begin to decrease at age 30 or even earlier. They decrease rapidly after age 40. But age is not the only reason that the number and quality of eggs decrease. Abnormalities in the ovaries can also cause such a decrease.
In primary ovarian insufficiency (sometimes called premature menopause Premature Menopause Premature menopause is the permanent end of menstrual periods before age 40. It occurs because the ovaries no longer release eggs (ovulation) regularly and become less able to produce hormones... read more or premature ovarian failure), the number of eggs in the ovaries decreases early. In a few women, primary ovarian insufficiency is the reason they have irregular menstrual periods or no periods.
Diagnosis of Problems With Eggs
Blood tests to measure levels of certain hormones
Doctors may evaluate the following women for problems with eggs:
Those who are 35 or older
Those who have had ovarian surgery
Those who have responded poorly to fertility drugs (such as gonadotropins) that stimulate several eggs to mature and be released
Doctors may measure levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen in the blood at a certain time during the menstrual cycle. (Follicle-stimulating hormone stimulates the release of eggs, called ovulation.) Increased levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and decreased levels of estrogen suggest a problem with eggs.
The most reliable tests for diagnosing problems with eggs are
Blood tests to measure levels of antimüllerian hormone (AMH), which is produced by the structures that contain the egg (follicles)
Ultrasonography with an ultrasound device that is placed in the vagina (transvaginal ultrasonography Ultrasonography Sometimes doctors recommend screening tests, which are tests that are done to look for disorders in people who have no symptoms. If women have symptoms related to the reproductive system (gynecologic... read more ) to view and count the number of follicles
A low level of antimüllerian hormone indicates that the number of follicles is small. A small number of follicles (observed and counted during ultrasonography) means that pregnancy after in vitro fertilization is less likely.
However, pregnancy may be possible even if test results are abnormal.
Treatment of Problems With Eggs
Treatment based on the woman's circumstances and age
Because pregnancy may be possible, doctors suggest different treatments for each woman based on her circumstances and age. Such treatments include those used to treat problems with ovulation Treatment The ovaries do not release an egg each month, as usually occurs during a menstrual cycle. Ovulation problems can result from dysfunction of the part of the brain and the glands that control... read more , such as clomiphene, letrozole (an aromatase inhibitor), and human gonadotropins.
If women are older than 42 or if the number or quality of eggs is decreased, using eggs from another woman (donor), if available, may be the only way to achieve pregnancy.