As eagle-eyed readers will know, I’m currently pregnant. Although this blog will remain a healthy food and lifestyle blog, I will start writing the odd blog post here and there about my journey as well as things like fertility which I feel are very important to talk about.
In the summer, I opened up about my low AMH and today I wanted to do a more in-depth post on this: looking on what AMH actually is, how it might impact your fertility and suggestions on what I did to conceive with low AMH.
What is low AMH?
Whether kids are on your mind or a long way off, you might have started to ponder your biological clock. I realise not everyone wants children but for those who do (or have merely contemplated the idea), it can linger at the back of our mind.
I think it’s only natural to sometimes worry that ‘time is running out’ (even if you are younger than me!) and fear that by the time you’ve got on the housing ladder/found a career you love/travelled the world you’ll have missed the boat. It’s certainly something I pondered a lot before we tried to have a baby as I think living with any chronic disease makes you question your body.
Anyway, put simply AMH is a measure of your ovarian reserve. We’re born with a certain number of eggs and this declines as we age until we stop ovulating. So AMH is the rate at which your eggs are declining (cheery) and, on a rudimentary level, how many you have left compared to women your age (I know it’s much more complicated than that scientifically, but for the purpose of the blog post that will do!)
As a number, it can be pretty meaningless-but when compared to the average of women your age, you can start to get an idea whether you have a bit less (or bit more!) time than you think to have a family.
I found out my number was ’12’ when it should have been 19 for a woman of 32. If I’d have been in my late 30s, it would have been a great result so it is all about perspective. This meant I was diagnosed with ‘low fertility’ or ‘sub-par fertility’ for my age depending on which you think sounds nicer (answer: it’s none).
It’s really important to note that this test is not an accurate test of your CURRENT fertility. And the NHS shows that there’s not much evidence to suggest those with low AMH would have more difficulty getting pregnant at the time they’re diagnosed with it than your average person (because you only need one egg right?). so AMH is more useful if you were thinking of having a baby later in life and wasn’t sure how much time you would have.
Saying that I have heard from some that low AMH can sometimes be an indicator of how good quality your eggs are too; which of course would be a barrier to conception. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
And of course it works both ways, you could have an egg supply to rival a chicken farmer and the AMH of a 16-year-old- but if you’re not ovulating then it is a bit pointless as you obviously wouldn’t fall pregnant.
Should I get my AMH tested?
I am really glad I had my AMH tested (which is done by a simple blood test)- it put things in perspective for me and forced me to take my trying to conceive efforts more seriously. Yes, it was upsetting but I had always assumed being a late bloomer, that I would have many years so it was much-needed information!
However, I would only really recommend getting tested if you have a plan to deal with the results. Of course, if everything is perfect that’s great but if it does come back low, then you might panic yourself unnecessarily and rush into something you are not ready for.
Also, I would not be ‘reassured’ by this test and make sure you also look into testing if you are ovulating (easily done via your GP who can do blood tests to see if your ovulating) or a scan of your ovaries (which can be done on the NHS or privately for around £80). I would just hate for someone to do this test and believe everything is fine without doing their research.
AMH costs £80 to be tested on the NHS if you have been referred to a fertility doctor; otherwise, there’s a few private clinics and even online services that offer this.
Conceiving with Low AMH
After I found out I had low AMH, we had an ovarian scan which I’d recommend having. This clarified I did have an ok-ish egg supply but one ovary was ‘a bit lazy!’ You can’t reverse or improve a low AMH score so my suggestions to approach it would come in two parts:
This is the last resort but I do know of some people with very low-AMH levels who have gone down this route when traditional IVF was not successful.
I am thankful we did not need to do this personally (because of how expensive it is!) but it does allow those with levels of AMH that are undetectable to still have the chance to carry a child by using eggs from a donor and IVF. I think this is such an amazing thing to do and if I had the chance, I would donate my eggs in a heartbeat.
Unfortunately, having IVF with donor eggs is not often available on the NHS so has to be done privately. If you’re in the US, this donor egg bank site is a really useful source of information and explains things like funding, how transfers work and how to find potential egg donors.
As I mentioned, there is nothing you can do to reverse low AMH but there are things you can do to help your egg quality and fertility in general. A few things I found useful were…
- Do some reading. Zita West’s Guide to Getting Pregnant is great (she has a great IVF recipe book which is useful if trying to conceive naturally) as is Taking Charge of Your Fertility (I learnt so much from that!)
- Supplements! There are many different options you can try. Many people swear DHEA has massively improved their egg quality but there’s not much evidence to back this up. Coenzyme Q10 is another one that is supposed to help with this. I personally saw a nutritionist who advised me to up my DHA (different to DHEA!) which is got from fish oil. I take Bare Biology’s fish oil-and they also do ‘Bump and Glory’ which is specially formulated for those trying to conceive and pregnant. Fish oil can help with things like inflammation which can sometimes prevent conceiving. I also read that taking fish oil when pregnant can lower the risk of the baby having allergies which is very interesting!
- Acupuncture is a great way to regulate your cycle (but not necessarily improve egg quality). I would recommend a fertility-specific accupuncturist (Zita West’s site has a postcode checker which I used).
I hope this post is useful and do let me know if you have any specific questions!
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post with Donor Egg Bank USA who asked me to write an honest account of journey with low AMH. Do check them out if you’re looking for more info; especially if you’re in the US.