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Running out of eggs myth

It’s all about egg quality - not quantity. During your reproductive years you are not going to “run out of eggs”!

I work with many women who come to me in a panic, having been told they are running out of time – their egg supply is diminishing and they need to “hurry up and get pregnant” before it’s too late!

If you have you been told that

  • you were born with a finite amount of eggs” and
  • with each menstrual cycle, you will lose one egg” until eventually
  • you will run out of eggs” because
  • your ovaries can no longer recruit more eggs

You will be thrilled to learn that this is no longer considered correct!

‘Egg timer’ test of fertility marketed ‘misleadingly’, study finds – The Age July 2021

This theory was unchallenged for over 50 years.

In 2004, Dr Jonathan Tilly, a Harvard research scientist, discovered that women actually make new eggs throughout their reproductive years.

He discovered ovarian stem cells that renew a female’s source of eggs throughout her fertile years.

In other words

  • Women are NOT born with a finite supply of eggs
  • Stem cells in the ovary are able to generate immature eggs cells and
  • These egg cells can mature and grow into fertile eggs throughout a woman’s reproductive years.

According to Tilly: “There’s no fathomable reason why a woman would have evolved to carry stale eggs around for decades before attempting to get pregnant while men evolved to have fresh sperm always available.”

It’s all about egg quality – not quantity

Research by experts from many Australian universities, and according to Professor Rombauts, research director at Monash IVF: “While AMH testing is often marketed as a test than can help women work out how much time they have left to have children, this is not a proven use.”

He goes on to say “A wide range of AMH readings are considered normal, and since the test doesn’t tell you anything about egg quality, women at the lower end of the normal range should not worry. AMH testing tells a woman nothing about the quality of her eggs, and it only takes one “golden” egg to be fertilised to produce an embryo. A woman may produce few, but very good quality eggs”.

And Fertility expert Dr Karin Hammarberg from Monash University states: ‘The test was not useful for making reproductive decisions – I wouldn’t recommend a woman decide when to have children based on this test.”

Ovarian reserve measurement is only useful in IVF, as it can work out if a woman is a good candidate for the IVF process

When I learned this, I became so excited to tell my patients who were so worried they were “running out of eggs” or that their eggs had been “sitting around for 30-40 years, getting “old”!

After explaining this to my patients they feel so liberated from that old dogma and I can also help them feel empowered by their knowledge and understanding.

This helps them feel calmer and more mindful of their health and wellbeing as they realise the influence this has on the health of their eggs.

With all this in mind, I hope I have helped you understand that you are NOT “born with a finite amount of eggs” and that during your reproductive years, you are NOT going to “run out of eggs”.

My wish is that this discovery will lead to new approaches for improving women’s health and fertility in the future.

Joanne Lipinski is a Melbourne based Fertility Naturopath

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