Why your “egg count” isn’t that important

CNN recently ran a weekend special called “Baby Quest” with Kyra Phillips. It’s great that fertility issues are getting more attention, and I know the producers and reporters had the best intentions. But one of the first things mentioned was that women should get a blood test and/or an ultrasound to find out their “egg count” or ovarian reserve, because that will give them an idea of how fertile they are.

Except it doesn’t. Egg count matters a lot if you’re having IVF, but that’s a tiny percentage of women. For natural conception, most of the research finds that low egg count lowers fertility somewhat but doesn’t mean you won’t get pregnant. Why? IVF needs to get out a lot of eggs at once, but for natural conception all you need is one.

So: Don’t waste your money and emotional energy getting your egg count tested (unless you know you’re headed for IVF). Instead, learn the best ways to up your odds for natural conception. For example, inΒ The Impatient Woman’s Guide, I describe three techniques for predicting your ovulation — and how if you’re really impatient you can use all three at once!

Egg count tests are a personal issue for me as well. I had my last two children at ages 38 and 40 — AFTER being told I had a very low egg count of 5. A friend of mine got pregnant with her third child at the age of 40 the same cycle that her FSH was 25 — an indicator of very low egg count. I later found out that these were not isolated cases, because the medical research finds that FSH isn’t a definitive predictor of natural fertility.

I’m a researcher, so I usually love having more information. But this is one case where I wish I hadn’t had the test. I was devastated after I got the news that I had a low egg count. I cried for a long time — it was like grieving, because I was afraid this meant I wouldn’t be able to have the family I wanted. But thankfully that turned out not to be the case.

Did you have your egg count tested — through a urine test (such as the First Response Fertility Test for Women), blood test (of FSH or AMH), or an ultrasound? How did you react to the results? Or did you make a conscious decision to not worry about such things until you had to?


About impatientwoman

I'm a psychology professor/researcher and mom of three. When I was trying to get pregnant, I read everything I could find -- and was surprised to find how much advice on fertility was wrong, according to the medical research. Or it was weird, like the statistics on over-35 fertility based on birth records from 17th century France (really!) Plus so many fertility books were boring, or written by men, or written by boring men. That's why I wrote The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Why your “egg count” isn’t that important

  1. Alex says:

    I had a miscarriage in June 12 by October 12 I still hadn’t conceived so I had lots of tests done including AMH. The result was less than 0.01 I was devasted I was told I would need IVF straight away as I was 35. I decided against it and took up meditation and yoga instead and gave my body and mind a rest from trying to conceive then a week ago ( jan 13 ) I found out I was pregnant. We are thrilled to bits but very nervous as going through another miscarriage would be devastating. I am lucky enough to have been blessed with a beautiful three year old daughter and to be blessed again is just amazing. I really don’t think testing for AMH levels is worthwhile unless its for IVF.

    • I hear these stories all the time. It’s so odd that IVF is suggested as the solution for low egg count, when IVF is less successful in women with low egg count. If there are other indications for IVF — blocked tubes, serious sperm issues — then yes, moving straight to IVF makes sense. But it’s not a great solution for low egg count if that’s the main fertility issue. From the research I was able to find, one of the few things that might help low egg count is taking DHEA (I describe this more in the book; also check out the website of the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, run by the doctors who did the first DHEA research). And DHEA is $10 a bottle — a lot cheaper than the tens of thousands for IVF.

    • mary g. says:

      I am just wondering what medication you took? I have been told the same thing as you – VERY low eggs – my dr only counted 4 or 5 – and was told IVF was needed. I have put it off due to cost but my fertility dr has not prescribed any medications…..I have started acupuncture and yoga and pre-natal vitamins. Any info you have IS GREATLY appreciated.

    • Sidney Zaragoza says:

      Hello! I have been on an emotional roller-coaster for a few years but will try to make my story short. On march 2016, I was diagnosed with very low egg count to be specific AMH < .015 and FSH 18.04, I also was devastated and cried for a while. The doctor recommended an egg donor, said that my chances of getting pregnant thru IUI were very low and trying on my own was even less likely. My husband and I did not want an egg donor. After that we tried for almost another year and now March 2017 I went back to the doctor, he just went over last years numbers and said that he agreed with my other doctor that according to my FSH and my AMH I would need a miracle to get pregnant on my own. He again recommended an egg donor but i refused, he then said he will do more blood work and see what my numbers are at this time but probably they would be even worst. I feel really sad and don't know what to do. The doctor wants me to go back for more blood work next week. Do the numbers ever change for the better?
      I am 39 now and feel like I have no more time to waste, Is there any natural products I can take? After I read your post it gave me hope, thanks for sharing.

  2. c says:

    Thankyou so much for this post. i too have a level of 5 at 39 and told by my GP that IVF is the only way now. I too feel devastated and scared. Thanks so much for this post again. I hope to have the same story to share ( I was a mother too at 38!

  3. Nash says:

    I was just told that I have a low egg count. But my doctor was all over the place when answering questions. I was shocked to find out that at the age of 35 I am probably go into early menapause. She also let me know that it was just the way my body is built and this is why this is happening. I mentioned to her that why would I do IVF if I have a low egg count….wouldn’t it be a waste? She simply answered “What do you consider a waste”. I am getting married in Nov 2013 and really wanted to wait until after the marriage to get pregnant,but she has told me I should not wait. My gut is telling me to go the natural route with herbal medecines, to see what may happen in the next 5 months leading up to the wedding. Do you have any advice for me, and where would I pick up DHEA? and what dossages would I take?

    • I was told that, too, and went on to get pregnant quickly twice in two years after that. Without knowing the details (how was it measured — ultrasound? FSH? AMH? And what were the exact numbers?) it’s hard to give specific advice about whether you should wait until after your wedding. I can say that going straight to IVF without trying naturally first would be a mistake — unless you have blocked tubes or some other issue like that, you should at least try to get pregnant on your own first. Same goes for DHEA and other supplements — try without them first, for at least 3 months with timed sex. Then consider trying them out. I found DHEA at a supplement store (I think GNC). Doses vary, but the research I review in The Impatient Woman’s Guide suggested 25mg three times a day.

  4. Sharon says:

    I was just told that I have low/undetectable egg count through AMH levels. My AMH level is 0.2 (people my age is usually at 1.0). I am 28. This is discouraging, but the doctor said that really, I only need one egg to conceive. I am praying that this will not too adversely affect my chances to conceive.

  5. Lisa says:

    I would just like to say to all those hopeful or already mothers with low egg count, YOU CAN FALL PREGNANT NATURALLY!

    I was 41 when I had that “egg timer” test and my count was below 1.1!!!!!

    I was devastated!!! I believed I was never going to have another child and my son would never have the sister or brother he so desparatly wanted. I was even told by the fertality clinic that it was highly unlikely that i would fall pregnant and ivf was the only way but that too did not look promising because of how low my egg count was.

    Well they got it WRONG, at 42 I gave birth to a very healthy baby boy! And he was natural! As long as your ovulating you can fall. I know when I ovulate from tracking, so on days before and after my husband and I did the deed! Lots of sex ladies.

    I wouldn’t recommend that egg test. If your test comes back with low and in my case extremely low count all it does is play on your mind and stress you out. All you focus on is “not falling pregnant” . How many times have you heard ladies say ” I just forgot about it for awhile, went out drinking, went on holiday, etc” And they end up pregnant!

    Women can fall pregnant with a low egg count! You only need one good egg!

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Even though this post is old, I just want to say thank you for the encouragement. I am 42 and trying for my 2nd child. Our little girl is 2 yrs old and I really want a sibling for her. I have been trying to conceive for 10 mths now, all my labs are fine except my
      AMH level 1.8. My FSH is 7 which is fine. I kinda think my dr dont know what she is talking about. According to my research for my age my AMH should be 0.5. So to me with my 1.8 i should be able to conceive naturally. She is referring me to an RE. I am currently in the last class of my MSN program and yes stressing about not getting pregnant. School is enough stress so this added stress is not good for my body. However, even though my Dr. told me my chance is low, I believe it will happen. I know not to worry but it’s so hard not to. But after reading your comment, you are so right I am gonna stop thinking about it and have fun. It will happen for me, so I am letting all that stress go and moving forward. Worrying doesn’t solve anything, all it does is make it worse, so HAPPY thoughts from now on. πŸ™‚


  6. Alison says:


    In August I was advised I had diminished ovarian reserve. I can’t remember the exact numbers but it was confirmed through ultrasound and blood testing. Everything else looked good but since I’d been trying to conceive for 15+ months and I had turned 36, I was advised to proceed with IUI. I read this blog-post and decided to wait a while. My period is four days late and I’ve had a positive home pregnancy test every day this week. So now I’m ‘cautiously optimistic’ and thought I’d share my story.


  7. Newmum2014 says:

    Before my husband and I started trying to conceive, I had a fertility test and was told that I had low AMH levels and that this indicated low fertility. I almost spiralled into depression at the grim prospect of not being able to have any children (having children was something I had always wished for ). Having just turned 35, I got pregnant a month after we started trying! Don’t let any of these tests make you feel that there is no hope of becoming a mother! There is hope and I now have a beautiful 12 week old baby boy – living proof that those tests are inconclusive. I wish everyone trying the gift of hope!

  8. Shae says:

    I am so glad I found this website. I was recently told I had a low egg count. This was so devastating to me. I cried so hard. I was told me and my husband would need IVF. Now, after reading your story I am so encourage to keep trying and no it will happen natural . I am going to buy the DHEA. Thank you for sharing your testimony .

  9. Steph says:

    Hello, I am 34 and I found out today that I have extremely low antral follicles like only 2 in 1 ovary…I am devastated as I think I will never be able to have children 😦 The gynaecologist announced this to me with no compassion…she simply said that it did not mean that I would never get pregnant but that I should evaluate how much I want to get pregnant?! If I am even there getting myself tested it must mean that this is a priority in my life…Hearing your success gives me hope.

  10. KVan says:

    Thank you for this article. I recently had the test and was advised of a “very low” count. I relate to the feeling of grieving, it’s exactly how I feel right now – also very panicked and not sure what to prioritise (family, career, egg freezing??). I’m in a new relationship and although we both want children, the timing isn’t right for us just yet as we want to build a solid relationship first.

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for whoever started this post!! I to feel exactly like you today. I just found out I have a low egg count and they immediately suggested IVF. It was heartbreaking, feels like a death. (I totally understand your statement of grief!) after reading everyone’s comments it is giving me hope so thank you!! πŸ™‚

    • Sandal says:

      Hi. I wondered if we might connect as I am in your position exactly.
      I am 35, just got my AMH test result only yesterday (3.6 – very low) and I am in a 4-month-old (really great so far relationship) that transcends any other I have ever had.
      I haven’t shared the results with my partner who’s younger – almost 31. I got tested due to my age so I just had an idea of my ‘situation’, regardless of him.
      Now I am very worried and stunned, been crying a fair bit, unsure what to do. My doctor wasn’t all that helpful or compassionate. In fact I felt rushed out the door as it’s a busy clinic.
      All I have is questions, and no idea how long a natural ‘window’ I have or whether to run towards assisted reproduction and embryo freezing. I am planning to get more information, and I am keeping track of: things to read more about, questions and all possible options that I come up with etc. I am also going to get my AMH retested elsewhere to see if the result comes back consistent or not, and also request a an antral follicle count with an ultrasound, and an FSH test which my doctor didn’t even mention to me. I am on the hunt for a new and better doctor with a warmer approach!
      ** I am happy for the website to send you my email address if you want to have a buddy in this unknown territory. **

      • Sara says:

        Sandal, I know this thread is about a year old but would love to connect with you via email if possible to hear what happened after your post. I am in the same situation basically. Was told to get an AMH test, number was low, then was told to see a fertility specialist. I got retested there (estradiol levels, FSH, and antral follicle count – the latter 2 were low therefore they are saying I have a diminished ovarian reserve). I too am in a new-ish relationship. We’re not at the point of trying to conceive so I am left sad, heartbroken, confused, unsure of next steps etc etc. Don’t know if I should pursue egg freezing or what. :/

  11. Claire Willoughby says:

    I had a blood test conducted to measure my AMH and was told I had a low count. The specialist suggested I start tying to conceive right away if I wanted a family.
    My partner and I decided we would take his advice and got pregnant that night. First try! Had a daughter 9 months later.

    Two years on, we are pregnant again after trying for 6 months (we did have a chemical pregnancy 3 months ago). So it has been relatively easy for us to fall pregnant despite my diagnosis.

  12. Kerry Burke says:

    thank you for this article! I too have just been told I have a low egg count after 2 miscarriages. We’ve been trying for nearly 2 years. I’m 36. This article and the follow on comments have helped immensely as my doctor who rang to deliver the results didn’t even know what the results meant! Google can be your worse enemy and your best friend! Thank you so much guys for all the comments on this! You all rock! Wishing you all success in your babymaking! πŸ™‚

  13. Jenni says:

    Hi everyone
    I also have a low ovarian reserve and told it would be challenging I think it was 0.6 which is low im 40 and really wanted a second child I was put on a clomid and fell pregnant in the second cycle the next alternative was ivf but as my OB said it only takes one good egg doesn’t matter how many it’s the quality you can have lots of eggs and they can be low quality a few natural things to try to help with increase egg quality is Royal jelly and Coq 10 tablets you can get both from health food stores read up about them both they have some great qualities to help with fertility and egg quality
    I am now 25 weeks pregnant and so happy my OB is still stunned I fell naturally!

  14. Smile says:

    I went for a scan today and was told I had a low ovarian reserve by the amount of follicles she could see. I have been crying all day. I have a 2 year old and desperately want a sibling for her. This blog has given me some hope
    I would also like to connect to someone who is in a similar situation
    Thank you

    • Mayflower says:

      I am in the same situation. I have a 2 1/2 year old and started trying almost a year ago for a second child. I had a miscarriage (possibly a chemical pregnancy) in November. I had some blood tests done by my OBGYN in March and since my AMH test came back low, .458, he thought it was best to go to a specialist due to the fact that I am 40. He said the fact that I had gotten pregnant last fall was a good sign, but he didn’t want to waste time trying different approaches with medicine. He thought a reproductive specialist would know best. The specialist did not seem to concerned with my situation, but suggested some proactive tests to make sure there were no obvious issues. We re-tested my AMH, which came back a little higher, .6, did the antral follicle count sonogram which resulted in 6 follicles, which is low, and did the HCG test which makes sure that there are no blockages in my tubes, which there were not. I am still set to do one more test which will check the uterus and make sure that it looks okay, as they did see what may have been minor scar tissue in the uterus during the HCG test. This could be due to the c-section that I had with my daughter. After that, I will meet with her again to see what her thoughts are. Currently, my husband and I don’t feel that we have an issue. We just don’t want to sit back and then find out in a year that we had an issue that could have been corrected. I am reading lots of positive posts about getting pregnant even with low AMH levels and antral follicle counts, so I am hoping that will be the case for us too.

    • Shory says:

      I am in the same boat had a misscarrage 9 months ago and it is 7 months since we started trying…
      Got my result last week
      My amh is 3.3 very low cried for a few days and now wating for my doctor appointment to see wgat to do next my docs receptionist is quit insensitive and cant book me esrlier then September dispite doc wantingto see me soon soi am just waiting trying not to panic. It is so hard i burst in to tears evrytime i think about it. I am 37 and feel my time is running out…
      Have u gad a chat with a doctor yet?

  15. Tee says:

    I too have diminished egg reserve. I have read all the comments and they have me hopeful. I was told I should go straight to IVF, and that my chances of getting pregnant with my own eggs was very low. Although I was approved for IVF through my insurance, everything is not covered. My husband and I still will have to come out of pocket with almost $6,000. My fertility doctor never recommended to use DHEA, and I seen two different doctors. Is that drug really ok to use, it seem to have a lot of side affects. Also we did try a year on our own

  16. tipper says:

    I was diagnosed with very low ovarian reserve (about the normal level for a 47-year-old woman, ugh) at age 37. My fertility doctor told me that it did not mean I couldn’t get pregnant naturally. I chose, since I was not, at the time, in a relationship, to freeze my eggs. He tried to talk me out of it, since it was an extremely expensive, out-of-pocket procedure, and he said that he could not guarantee that it would be successful since low ovarian reserve usually correlates to low response to fertility drugs. I decided to go ahead, but it was very touch-and-go until the last minute, and I was on the maximum possible dosages of hormones, but they managed to get 5 eggs and freeze them. I now am 41 and have been trying, unsuccessfully, for the past 2.5 years to get pregnant. As for DHEA, that same fertility doctor told me that he could not tell me whether DHEA is actually helpful or not. He said I could take it if I wanted to, but that one of the main doctors promoting it for fertility has a strong financial stake in its production and sale, so…you can draw your own conclusions from that.

  17. Maren Vidal says:

    I just turned 41. After trying to conceive for a few months, and noticing my periods had shortened from 30 to 27 days, I decided to see a fertility doctor. My ultrasound showed only 6 total follicles and my AMH level was “undetectable.” The doctor is not recommending IVF at this time and said that it would not increase my odds of conceiving. Basically he’s saying my chances of getting pregnant via IVF are just as good, or poor depending how you look at, it as my chances of conceiving naturally. He did say we coukd try Clomid treatment since it “couldn’t hurt.”
    That being said, I am very disappointed at the test results but not discouraged from trying. I conceived a healthy baby at 39 and gave birth to her just before my 40th birthday. It’s hard to believe that things could have declined so significantly since then, but I’m trying to think positively.

  18. Cassie says:

    I had a baby girl naturally at age 29. Since then we have been trying/not preventing which means I have never went on birth control. I am not 32 and went to have testing completed just to make sure nothing “major” was wrong. Went to specialist after my midwife let me complete 3 rounds of Femara. All the tests came back normal meaning they did an ultrasound, semen specimen test, and a fallopian tube blockage test, as well as an extensive blood test. The ONLY conclusion they would come to was that I have a low egg count. I can’t remember the exact number I was given. Well that was 6 months ago and I have been depressed, went back and forth about what steps to take all the while we still have been trying to conceive naturally. Since I had the fallopian tube blockage test done I am certain that I have been ovulating due to my body symptoms but before that test there were def. times I know that I did not ovulate. At this point, I am just unsure. I said that when my daughter turns 5 that I am done having kids as I will be starting all over, but I don’t want to rush it but it is just not happening naturally like we have hoped. Our insurance covers IUI and IVF full coverage so I am just so confused and conflicted. My husband is a “we will try harder” or “if it is meant to be it will happen” type guy and I am just more OCD, if there is something wrong, let’s fix it. In just the past year, I have watched my best friend give birth, 2 days ago I just watched my sister have her 3rd child, and just found out my other best friend is due in May…..Is this just not my year or couple of years. I am trying to remain optimistic and hopeful….Any advice or support is totally welcome cause nobody in my neck of the woods quite understands…..Thanks!

    • Preet says:

      Hi Cassie,
      I am really sorry to heard about your fertility problem. I think I can understand that as very well. I am also going through same as like you. I am writing my story I know it is pretty long but it is easy to read but hard to feel. I had a little girl in 2008 and now she is 8 years last month and I turned 31 in this October. She was born when I came to austarlia same year. After that life is too busy with no family support it is hard to another child soon so that I think I can have when she can start school. When she was in kindy, first time I had problem with periods that didn’t come up for three month. I was happy maybe I am pregnant but I wan’t. Dr. Told me sometime it can happen. But after that we was going to try to conceive. But few months same thing happen no periods after that it is going to happen often one month on and next month off. I was going to worried something happen wrong. Than I went to the specilist She test AHM level and that was too low. She just said to try IVF and there is not another option because may be I am going to eary menopause.
      This was the worst day of my life. As you know more you thing more you get crazy to have a kid . So straight to Ivf and only one follice develop, Dr. Cancelled the cycle. Another next cycle I take next year , because we was thinking to try naturally but next cycle five follice but we went to the egg pick stage and not a one egg . So depressed blaming myself all the time. She said there is only option is egg donor. I do’t want anything of this. But still I had one beautiful girl. So I changed the dr and fertility centre. I went to another IVF same year after 5 month, they got 2 eggs, I was so happy but worried about everything stage after that . So one fertiliser . Husband sperm is really good. So day three egg has only three cells so Dr. Ask me to tranfer so day third tranfer is done. Now waiting for after 14 days . I got a positive text result and HCG level are go up but not what they want so still Dr was unsure about it until the heartbeat. So week 6 I heard my baby’s heartbeat. So happy thanking to God about everything. Than go back another ultrasound on week 8. May be that day was put me so behind where I start . You know what, no heartbeat that day. I was broken into pieces. I can’t do anything now. Everything just stop for me. Than misscariage happen naturally after two weeks. So that was my story. Still hoping for everything. But only suggestion I told you please try naturally as you can. Because when you gone through IVF and It didn’t happen you get crazy doing agin and again. If you don’t have any periods problem and your AHM is good than mine there is lots of chance. So please try your best, Nobody know which year which day and which month will be lucky for you. Give you all the best wishes. I prayed for you that you will be email me one day with you little one in you hands.

  19. Nisreen says:

    Thank you for the positive words. I am trying through natural method too with a low AFC of 9. I am positive I will make it happen!

  20. Jennifer says:

    I am 38 years old at the age 36 we wenter thru IVF and we had a low egg count of 4 eggs and the day of the egg retrieval when they went to retrieve the eggs I had empty follicles. Three months later we did another egg retrieval and only had 4 eggs again but they did retrieve all 4 eggs and fertilized all 4 but only one egg fertilized and then on day 3 check up we did not have cell division. This was our last hope and still almost 3 years later we still have not ever been pregnant. I cry almost every time I think that I will never be a mother. I will never know what it feels like to have a baby grow inside me. I gave up all hope. We can’t afford to to try and try again. And we can’t afford to go thru adoption. I always say I could have used that money for adoption only if I would have known that I had that low of a egg count.

  21. Tmarie says:

    I’m encouraged and heartbroken at the same time reading some of you’re stories. I pray everything keeps changing positively for the better in all of our lives. I too we’re told I have a very low egg count and was told ivf was the only way to go if I wanted to conceive a child after I left that dr office that day my heart sank chest got heavy and failure ran through my mind I just cried and found myself slipping back into depression I’ve been pregnant twice but only with one living daughter who is now a 18 yr old student in college from a previous relationship. My husband and I’ve tried desperately for the last year to try to conceive after hearing the bad news that day from my obgyn I thought about throwing in the towel especially since I’ll be 36 this August. I’m feeling really bummed right now for this week I got a visit from aunt flow after being a month and 9 days late I thought I had a little baby dust on me and was excited that I might possibly be preggers. I’ve researched the last on-line the last 5 hours of natural remedies foods teas supplements etc on how to boost are chances of becoming parents. This journey has been exhausting expensive and draining I almost selfishly gave up untill I ran across thus thread. I’m going to breath relax be grateful and try to stay hopeful even when times get rough and keep on keeping on there was hope for you all hopefully hoping there’s hope for me too. ~T-Marie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s