BOSTON (CBS) — It’s no secret that many women are choosing to start families later in life. But what does remain a mystery is how easy — or how hard — it will be to get pregnant once they start trying. Now there is a simple blood test that can provide some important answers and some peace of mind years before becoming a mom.
At 35 years old Jessica was recently divorced and still dreamed of being a mom someday.
“I didn’t want my biological clock, the ticking of it, to push me into my next relationship and for the wrong reasons,” said Jessica. “You don’t know what life has in store for you.”
So Jessica took charge. She met with a Dr. Samuel Pauli, a fertility doctor at IVF New England. He sent her for a simple blood test to check her egg supply.
The test checks for anti-mullerian protein hormones, or AMH levels, in the blood. The higher these levels are indicate the likelihood of a high egg supply. The results are usually color-coded. Yellow means it’s likely there is a high number of eggs. Green is average. And Jessica’s score came back in the red, with an extremely low egg count.
“It really floored me and it completely just put me into shock,” said Jessica.
“If the testing is more borderline it suggests that there may have some decline [in egg supply] already. And so, for those women it becomes an important decision tool in that it may encourage them to freeze their eggs before there is more further decline,” explains Dr. Samuel Pauli.
And more women are choosing to freeze their eggs. Just a few years ago there were barely any eggs frozen at IVF New England. Now that the procedure is no longer considered experimental there are hundreds of eggs frozen in time.
“We start to sometimes see decline in ovarian function in their early 30’s,” says Dr. Pauli. He would like to see the AMH blood test offered at women’s annual physicals to give them a glimpse into their reproductive health, “almost like a check-up to see where does my biological clock stand right now?”
“If you’re 25 years old or 28 years old start having this simple blood test and then you have this baseline so that you can gauge where your eggs are at,” she said.
Almost two years after that first meeting with Dr. Pauli, Jessica used the money she had been saving up for a house to harvest and freeze 27 eggs. So does she still hear her biological clock ticking?
“Not really. I can take a deep breath. I can relax,” she said.
Egg freezing is typically not covered by insurance. And it’s important to note that the AMH blood test does not predict egg quality or the ability of a woman to get pregnant. But it could provide an early warning sign if that egg count comes back low.