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, in 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.
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18 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.

  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!

  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!!:)

    • 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!:)

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