Ovarian reserve refers to the remaining egg supply of a woman that can produce babies. When a female is born, they are born with the maximum number of eggs inside her ovaries, and this number cannot be regenerated. As women age, their egg supply gradually decreases over time until they finally hit menopause, impacting natural fertility. One of the most critical factors in having a healthy and successful pregnancy is good quality and a high quantity of eggs. Before understanding the difference between egg quality and quantity, let’s deep dive into diminished ovarian reserve and its causes.
What Is A Diminished Ovarian Reserve(DOR), And What Causes It?
Dr. Sonal Chouksey, Fertility Consultant, Nova IVF Fertility, Bhopal, “Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) refers to the low egg quality, diminished egg quantity, and a decrease in reproductive potential. Therefore, DOR leads to infertility.”
The signs and symptoms of DOR include:
- A high FSH level.
- Low AMH level (Anti Mullerian Hormone)
- Low antral follicle count (AFC).
- A history of unsuccessful IVF cycles.
With aging being the primary cause of the diminished ovarian syndrome, other factors that can impact the ovarian reserve include genetic abnormalities and other underlying medical conditions such as endometriosis, cancer treatment (chemotherapy and radiotherapy), and pelvic radiation. Ovarian surgery may also lead to a decrease in some normal tissue, further causing diminished ovarian reserve. Tobacco use is another leading cause of DOR.
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What Is The Difference Between Egg Quality And Egg Quantity?
Egg Quantity can be defined as the number of remaining eggs in a woman’s ovaries at a specific time. The amount of eggs decreases from 1-2 million at birth to only 1000 eggs by the time a woman reaches the age of 35 and beyond. When the egg count reaches such a low number, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular and eventually stops, leading to menopause. While some women are born with an overall lower egg quantity, others may experience a loss of eggs at a faster pace. It is essential to know that a low egg count does not suggest that you are less fertile. There are various ways to test the number of your eggs. Ultrasound can be done to figure out the number of visible eggs, and this number is always proportional to the number of eggs stored in the ovaries. Blood tests can also examine the Anti-Mullerian hormone(AMH) level and Follicle stimulation hormone(FSH). These two hormones are indicative of the egg quantity in the ovarian reserve.
Having a high number of eggs is not the only factor that affects your fertility; having healthy and good-quality eggs matter just as much. As a woman’s age increases, the quality of her eggs declines as well. Eggs become more prone to getting damaged and accumulating imbalances in the amount of DNA. This leads to the growth of a genetically abnormal embryo. This further causes a negative pregnancy, miscarriage, or even the birth of a child with genetic health problems. Unlike egg quantity, there is no way to test a woman’s egg quality. The best way to judge a woman’s egg quality is by age.
What Can Be Done To Improve Egg Quantity And Quality?
Dr. Sonal Chouksey says, “While there is no magic trick to turn back your biological clock and regenerate the quantity and quality of your eggs, making healthy lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking can help to slow down the decline in egg quantity. If you want to conceive at an older age, the most reliable option is to preserve your fertility by freezing your eggs or embryos. Consulting with a fertility specialist and being aware of the number of your eggs can also help you meet your reproductive goals. If you experience any symptoms of DOR, it is highly recommended that you get a fertility check-up done.”
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