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How Many Eggs Does a Woman Have?

Fertility - October 7, 2019

For all women, eggs are a non-renewable resource. We are born with all of the eggs we’ll ever have in the form of between 1-2 million ovarian follicles waiting to become mature eggs. From birth on, this number starts to decline. About 11,000 of them die every month prior to puberty. Once a female hits puberty, it’s estimated that she’ll have only 300,000-400,000 eggs still remaining and only about 500 of these will actually be ovulated.

After puberty, egg count continues to decline as a woman loses more than a thousand follicles (or potential eggs) each month (about 30-35 eggs per day). As part of every menstrual cycle, follicles are activated to prepare for ovulation. But only one egg will mature and be released, while the other under-developed follicles are reabsorbed by the body and lost for good.

This monthly egg loss is completely independent of hormone production, birth control pills, pregnancies, diet, health or lifestyle. Nothing stops the unavoidable death of these one thousand eggs per month.  Most women erroneously assume that they are only losing one egg each month, but this is not the case. By age thirty-seven, the average woman will be down to only about 25,000 remaining eggs.

At any one time, there are follicles at every stage of development. A resting follicle takes about 85-days to develop into a mature egg. Every day a new batch of 30-35 follicles begins this development process in hopes of becoming an egg that is ovulated, but by mid-cycle (Day 14), there is normally a dominant pre-ovulatory follicle. The dominant follicle will fully mature and be ovulated while the others in the batch are reabsorbed.

The number of potential eggs remaining is called your ovarian reserve. It’s like a savings account for eggs that loses a little of its balance each month with no new deposits until there are no potential eggs remaining and a woman enters menopause.

We do not see a similar decline in men who continue to make sperm throughout their lives with very little decline as they age.

How does this relate to egg freezing?

Many women wonder if egg freezing uses up their egg supply faster. Rest assured, it does not. The medications given prior to egg retrieval stimulate these extra follicles that are on deck and allow them to fully mature so that there are multiple eggs available for release (or retrieval) just prior to ovulation.

Freezing eggs actually allows a woman to make use of additional eggs that would have otherwise been lost that month.

How do I know how many eggs I have right now?

Fertility doctors have a couple of different ways to give you an idea of your ovarian reserve:

  • BLOODWORK : Specifically, an AMH Test. An anti-Müllerian hormone test is a blood test that measures the amount of anti-Müllerian hormone in your blood. AMH is produced by special cells inside the follicles and helps doctors estimate the number of follicles inside the ovaries. The higher your AMH level, the more eggs you have in reserve.  An average AMH level for a fertile woman is 1.0–4.0 ng/ml, but can vary depending on age. Some women will be higher or lower than this range.
  • ULTRASOUND : Your doctor can perform an ultrasound and do an antral follicle count. This involves physically counting the visible follicles seen on ultrasound. Each follicle contains an immature egg that can potentially mature and ovulate. This test gives an idea of not only total egg count, but also of how many eggs a woman might be able to freeze during one cycle of stimulation. For the most accurate results, this test should be performed at the beginning of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

While egg count is certainly one measure of a woman’s fertility, it is just a part of the full picture. Egg quality plays another important role in determining a woman’s likelihood of becoming pregnant. While we can test for egg quantity, we cannot test for egg quality. For most women, age is the best predictor of egg quality. Freezing eggs while you are young effectively ‘stops the clock’ on the eggs you have frozen since both egg quantity and quality significantly decline as women age.

Have questions about egg freezing and want to know your options?  CNY Preserve is ready to explore your possibilities. Schedule your consultation today or give us a call 833-CNY-PRES. We’re here to provide the support and resources you need on your fertility journey.

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