Post by Anastasia Vakkas
In a world where information is available in seconds, it is no doubt frustrating that when it comes to our own bodies, the answers we seek are often the hardest to find.
Despite significant advancements in the field of reproductive medicine, fertility remains shrouded in mystery. Century old myths and misconceptions about what is good and bad for one’s fertility continue to spread, now repackaged and propagated through social media and influencer culture. Sadly, these ideas continue to make infertility a mostly ‘female’ issue and place the responsibility of childbearing on women. Almost a third of couples that struggle to conceive are told they have ‘unexplained’ infertility. It is therefore no surprise that as more and more women choose to start their families later in life, they may be interested in understanding their future fertility.
Anti-Müllerian Hormone (AMH) is a test that is increasingly being spruiked as a measure of fertility in the medical sphere. Many women have anxieties when it comes to fertility. Clare Stephens (Editor in Chief of Mamamia) stated in an article (https://www.mamamia.com.au/how-to-test-fertility) that when it comes to fertility, ‘knowledge is power’. She wrote, “despite my immediate uncertainty, having my AMH tested has given me some piece of mind, even if it's not exactly logical”. The idea of things being ‘not exactly logical’ is a vital part of the story when it comes to AMH- while performing the test is simple (a blood test), the information it yields is not.
AMH needs to be interpreted with nuance and careful consideration, alongside other factors. There are many factors involved in conceiving a baby that an AMH test does not consider. Whilst AMH can help plan fertility treatment, it doesn’t give any information about your fertility (i.e. the quality of the eggs or any other fertility-related conditions you might have). Without a proper consultation with a fertility consultant, the results can be misleading.
Even though AMH test results alone cannot give an accurate prediction of future fertility some providers market AMH as a way to this. This is concerning as women may change their reproductive plans based on these results - such as becoming pregnant earlier or later than originally planned or opting to use costly reproductive technologies such as IVF and elective egg freezing.
What’s more, there is very little data about what women understand about AMH testing and what a test result may mean for them, prior to undergoing the test. There is even less data on how receiving an AMH test result may affect a woman’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. Knowledge may be power, but what are the broader consequences of this knowledge? In fact. is all knowledge, good or bad, empowering?
A joint research project between the the University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s Hospital seeks to explore how AMH test results are shared with women, how this impacts women’s wellbeing, and how it may influence their choices and behaviours around family planning. Researchers are aiming to investigate whether AMH test results change women’s plans to become pregnant or lead to use of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF and elective egg freezing.
The project hopes to survey more than 300 women who had an AMH test in the past five years. Ultimately, the results of this study will seek to improve communication around AMH test results- so that women can understand what an AMH test result might mean for them and are empowered to make informed and contextualised reproductive decisions.
Researchers would love to hear from you if you are:
- Aged 18-55
- Have had an AMH test in the past 5 years
- Have not had difficulty conceiving for more than 12 months (if you are trying/or have tried to become pregnant); and
- Have 15-20 minutes to this survey
Interested? Find out more: go.unimelb.edu.au/x6di