Counting Your Eggs

A new test that can be ordered by mail can help a woman to figure out how much time is left on her biological clock. The test, set to be unveiled in the coming weeks, indicates how many viable eggs are left in a woman's ovaries. This ovarian reserve test was developed by Professor Bill Ledger from Sheffield University. Ledger developed a method for assessing a woman's fertility based on measuring the levels of three hormones.

Ledger issued a statement about the launch of the Plan Ahead test kit, "My hope is that Plan Ahead will help many women avoid the anguish caused by the early or unexpected arrival of declining fertility and menopause. Inhibin B and AMH hormone levels start to fall relatively early in reproductive life, with a later fall in FSH. By combining the test on all three hormones, we are able to offer women the most accurate ovarian reserve hormone test available in the world today, which will help them plan for the future by giving a predictive assessment of the number of eggs in their ovaries."

Declining Levels

A woman's general practitioner takes a blood sample which is sent to the manufacturers of the kit for an analysis. The results are mailed to the patient within just a few days' time. It is not yet known how much the testing will cost the consumer.

Plan Ahead measures three hormones. Two of these are responsible for ovarian function and will begin to decline as a woman edges close to menopause. The third hormone, FSH, is present in the brain. Production of FSH increases as menopause draws near.

Knowing the levels of these hormones helps to assess the number of viable eggs left in the ovaries. The levels may be decreasing or there may be a change in the health of the eggs. If the quality of the eggs is declining, this means there is less of a chance they could produce viable embryos.

Hurry Up?

The university set up a company known as Biofusion to develop this and other new products. Biofusion is headed up by David Baynes. While the kit was still being developed, Baynes spoke about what the kit does, "In simple terms, it will say, 'Should I hurry up or have I got plenty of time?'"

A woman's fertility is known to go into a sharp decline after she reaches the age of 35. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority says that a woman's fertility at 35 is half of what it was at age 25. At 40 years of age, the level of fertility is once again halved. While conception is still possible until menopause brings with it the end of the menstrual cycle, her fertility has been undergoing a fast decline in the decade leading up to this event.