As a 31-year-old single woman, I’m well aware I need to be paying attention to the state of my ovaries but don’t know where to start.
Dr Mary Birdsall, from Fertility Associates, sees between two and three 30-something women a day in the same boat.
“Knowledge is power,” she says. “There are choices you can make outside of sitting back and waiting for Mr Right to come along.”
After ticking off my overall good health, we look at other fertility factors. I’ve never smoked, which is good, as this can send you into menopause 18 months earlier than normal. My parents never smoked; also good, as if your dad smoked, it can bring your menopause on two years earlier. My mum went into menopause in her mid-50s, another positive sign as roughly 70 per cent of your menopausal age is determined by your mother’s.
A scanning wand is inserted into the vagina to look at the uterus and ovaries, to make sure everything looks structurally sound. Birdsall assures me: “It doesn’t hurt, it’s just undignified.” Agreed! I’m told I have a ‘beautiful uterus’ and two ‘nice-looking ovaries’. I’ve had ovarian cysts in the past but haven’t had surgery on them, which is another tick as that can damage the tissue.
The AMH test
The anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) test, Birdsall says, is the best guide to what your egg supply is like and when you’re predicted to go into menopause. You find out from a blood test and if you don’t want to see a fertility specialist, your GP can do the AMH test. However, a specialist is the best person to interpret these results. My fertility is slightly below average for my age bracket; the average reading would be menopause at 51, last baby ideally at 41. Mine is menopause at 48 to 49, so last baby by 39. This seems doable!
I’d been paranoid my results would say I’d have to have my final kid by 35, so I feel happier knowing I have a few more years to play with. Birdsall does say I should be on the ‘active hunt’ for Mr Right (as if my mother hasn’t been telling me the same thing for the past decade). I’ve told all my friends who are in the same position as me to get the AMH test because it gives you a timeline to work with, as opposed to shifting between panic/blind optimism for the next few years.
So you know your timeline, you know your uterus… now what?
1. Find a partner, have a baby the old-fashioned way.
2. Freeze your eggs. Results from Spain – who lead the world in egg freezing – have reported the exact same pregnancy rates with frozen eggs as with fresh eggs. It costs around $9k to freeze your eggs and another $5k to thaw and inseminate your eggs when you need them.
3. Join the donor sperm programme: If this is your plan B, be advised there can be a two-year waiting list. If using insemination only, called IUI, you’ll be allocated enough sperm for 10 inseminations. The cost is around $2300 per insemination cycle. Or if you go for donor sperm with IVF, the quality of the sperm is the same as the IUI scheme, but there’s less needed of it. The waiting list for this is around a year. It costs some $14k, including the IVF cycle plus access to a clinic sperm donor.
4. A quicker option is to find your own sperm donor. If you involve Fertility Associates, your chosen donor will go through the same process as those on the donor sperm programme do over a three-month waiting period: counselling, blood test, sperm screening. For an insemination (IUI) cycle, it costs around $2600, or for IVF with your own donor around $13k. Counselling is also required with donor sperm treatment, approximately $310 for the two appointments required.
The best way to know your own options though is to have a first consultation, as I did. It costs around $270 and you’ll get a good understanding of your own fertility.