When a couple struggles to conceive naturally and they begin investigations into their fertility, it can feel like an extensive line of blood tests and screenings, with so much hope and anticipation hanging on each result. One such test looks at the female’s AMH (Anti-Müllerian Hormone) level and is a marker of her ovarian reserve; put simply – how many viable eggs she has left. When there are fewer developing eggs in the ovaries, the chance of a mature and healthy egg being released and fertilised decreases. The levels of this hormone generally decrease with age, but for some women it can be lower than expected during their 20s and early 30s. Discovering you have a low AMH level can be disconcerting and add to the feeling that one’s biological clock is ticking ever quicker. It is important to remember that these results are only one part of the bigger picture – a low AMH level alone is not an indicator of poor fertility.
In recent times, with many people waiting later in life to start a family, it is becoming increasingly more common for women, both in a relationship and single, to have this blood test done to assess their fertility and inform their family planning choices. Victoria Webb, a financial director from London, was willing to share her positive experience in this area. After having a so-called ‘fertility MOT’ ahead of potential egg freezing, Victoria discovered that her AMH count was low (5.4). On her first round of egg collection, the fertility specialists were able to retrieve 2 eggs for freezing from only 3 follicles. She was disappointed with the outcome of this first round and so took the advice of her doctors and spent time focusing on her physical and mental wellbeing to improve her next round. She was given the option to take a drug called DHEA, but she didn’t like some of the side effects and so chose to focus purely on making positive changes to her lifestyle. Over the next four months Victoria chose to stop drinking alcohol altogether; quit smoking; increased the amount of exercise she did on a weekly basis; ate a clean diet; and started regular acupuncture which she found had a positive impact on her ability to relax and focus. In her words, “I just eased off life. I took it easy, I relaxed, I felt good about myself.” On her second round of egg collection, Victoria discovered that her AMH level had doubled to 11, and she had a far greater number of follicles from which 10 mature eggs were retrieved and frozen. She was understandably delighted with this improved outcome, as were the team at the clinic, and she is now looking forward to continuing with these positive changes ahead of her final round of egg collection in the coming months.
This is such a positive and encouraging story and promotes a strong and clear message to anyone who has discovered they have a low AMH count and is feeling a little helpless: a combination of small changes can make a big difference over time – be patient and willing to put your physical and mental health first. Try not to think of cutting certain things out of your diet and lifestyle as denying yourself the things you love and enjoy, but actually as a positive and kind thing to do for your body and mind.