From birth, females have a fixed—though plentiful—supply of eggs
(ovarian reserve). As a woman ages past her mid-30s, her eggs gradually
degrade, making it less likely that she will naturally conceive, or that an
assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure will
result in pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Among American women in their 20s to mid-30s, over 35 out of 100 give birth
for each ART cycle using their own eggs. As women age, the live ART birth rate
While there is no definitive test of ovarian reserve, a woman's
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level can be measured
to evaluate how well her ovaries are working. A high FSH level is a sign that
the body is trying to stimulate the
ovaries to make more egg
follicles, but the ovaries are not responding and
conception is unlikely.
A woman's FSH level can be tested using a blood sample:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (2008).
2008 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates: National Summary and Fertility Clinic Reports. Available online:
December 7, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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