When it comes to women’s fertility and reproductive hormones, a variety of key hormones come into play. Of those, one specific hormone produced inside a woman’s ovaries, known as the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), plays an important role in fertility levels and diagnosing additional issues.
AMH, classified by medical professionals as the Anti-Mullerian Hormone, is a protein produced by cells in ovarian follicles. This protein helps stimulate and strengthen the eggs that are held in reserve inside a woman’s ovaries (also referred to as the dormant pool of eggs).
Blood tests designed to measure bodily concentrations of AMH have become a critical barometer in drawing initial conclusions about women’s ability to conceive. Physicians and infertility specialists opine that AMH levels rarely fluctuate during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Therefore, many health professionals believe that the findings gathered offer a solid indication of how well the ovaries are functioning.
Typical AMH level ranges are as follows:
Normal AMH levels
(1.5 to 4.0 ng/ml) – associated with increased fertility and better response rates to fertility treatments.
Low–Normal AMH levels
(1.0 to 1.5 ng/ml) – associated with decreased ovarian reserve with little interference with possible pregnancy outcomes.
Very low AMH levels
(below .5 ng/ml) – suggest diminished ovarian reserve and increased fertility concerns.
What Does a High Level of AMH Mean?
Most doctors agree that elevated levels of AMH often indicate that a woman may possess a greater quantity of reserve eggs. Moreover, it is believed that only slightly higher than normal levels may indicate a woman’s chances of conceiving.
Despite the higher number of eggs with high levels of AMH, these levels can also be a sign of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), as women with PCOS often have many small follicles (cysts) and as a result, may test high in AMH. In addition, women with high levels of AMH are often times at a greater risk for ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS).
In addition to the impact on fertility, some research also links high AMH levels to increased risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.
Decreased Concentrations of AMH, and What It Might Indicate
In certain instances, a diminished amount of AMH in a woman’s blood may mean she possesses a limited quantity of reserve eggs and could make her a candidate for infertility or offer a possible explanation as to why she is unable to conceive.
It is important to note, however, that egg quantity is not the only determining factor in whether a woman will one day bear children. Healthcare professionals caution that egg quality must also be taken into consideration. Women with plentiful egg quantity might be stricken with poor egg quality, while those with limited quantity might still possess solid-quality eggs. Scientists and physicians caution that women with low egg quantity but good quality should not abandon their hopes of conceiving or pursuing treatments designed to enhance their chances of becoming pregnant.
In addition, the medical community believes that certain biological and external factors may also contribute to diminished AMH levels.
Issues Precipitating Diminished AMH Counts
Age may arguably be the most significant factor impacting AMH readings. Typically, AMH levels will start declining after a woman reaches age 35 and beyond and continue on a slow and steady decline until she reaches menopause (a naturally-occurring condition experienced by women in their late forties or early fifties in which a woman’s ovaries cease production of reproductive hormones and she is no longer able to conceive children).
In addition, several lifestyle factors might also result in low AMH concentrations including poor dietary habits, excessive cigarette smoking, exposure to excessive amounts of second-hand smoke and external elements such as burning wood, chemotherapy drugs, physical, emotional and mental stress, interrupted blood flow to the ovaries, various illnesses and injury or damage to the ovaries or elsewhere along the reproductive tract.
Improving Low AMH Readings
The first and most important action is to determine what is precipitating the low readings. Should the skewed results be caused by an external or correctable biological issue, remedial efforts will likely be geared toward alleviating or eliminating the specific malady. If the cause is more reproductive in nature, women may choose to consult with infertility specialists and explore methods of boosting the ovarian egg reserve. Natural approaches for helping boost low AMH levels include proper diet and exercise routines, and possible DHEA supplements, which are the hormones that regulate fat and mineral metabolism.