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Problems With Eggs

(Decreased Ovarian Reserve)


Robert W. Rebar

, MD, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
Topic Resources

The number of eggs may be low, or the quality may be poor.

The number and quality of eggs How Many Eggs? The internal genital organs form a pathway (the genital tract). This pathway consists of the following: Vagina (part of the birth canal), where sperm are deposited and from which a baby can... read more (ovarian reserve) may begin to decrease at age 30 or even earlier. They decrease rapidly after age 40. But age is not the only reason that the number and quality of eggs decrease. Abnormalities in the ovaries can also cause such a decrease.

In primary ovarian insufficiency (sometimes called premature menopause Premature Menopause Premature menopause is the permanent end of menstrual periods before age 40. It occurs because the ovaries no longer release eggs (ovulation) regularly and become less able to produce hormones... read more or premature ovarian failure), the number of eggs in the ovaries decreases early. In a few women, primary ovarian insufficiency is the reason they have irregular menstrual periods or no periods.

Diagnosis of Problems With Eggs

  • Blood tests to measure levels of certain hormones

  • Ultrasonography

Doctors may evaluate the following women for problems with eggs:

  • Those who are 35 or older

  • Those who have had ovarian surgery

  • Those who have responded poorly to fertility drugs (such as gonadotropins) that stimulate several eggs to mature and be released

Doctors may measure levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen in the blood at a certain time during the menstrual cycle. (Follicle-stimulating hormone stimulates the release of eggs, called ovulation.) Increased levels of follicle-stimulating hormone and decreased levels of estrogen suggest a problem with eggs.

The most reliable tests for diagnosing problems with eggs are

A low level of antimüllerian hormone indicates that the number of follicles is small. A small number of follicles (observed and counted during ultrasonography) means that pregnancy after in vitro fertilization is less likely.

However, pregnancy may be possible even if test results are abnormal.

Treatment of Problems With Eggs

  • Treatment based on the woman's circumstances and age

Because pregnancy may be possible, doctors suggest different treatments for each woman based on her circumstances and age. Such treatments include those used to treat problems with ovulation Treatment The ovaries do not release an egg each month, as usually occurs during a menstrual cycle. Ovulation problems can result from dysfunction of the part of the brain and the glands that control... read more , such as clomiphene, letrozole (an aromatase inhibitor), and human gonadotropins.

If women are older than 42 or if the number or quality of eggs is decreased, using eggs from another woman (donor), if available, may be the only way to achieve pregnancy.

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