I’m one of those people who has always been anxious about my health.
The first time I used a tampon at 14, I convinced myself I had toxic shock syndrome and was slowly dying. There was no cure (there definitely is a cure) and a painful, brutal death was simply inevitable. It was all very sad and as much as I wanted to tell my family, I just couldn’t bear the pain they would feel at losing their daughter to a tampon.
When I eventually broke the news to my mum, she laughed at me and told me that a vague headache and an upset tummy probably weren’t symptoms of a rare disease, and were far more likely to be related to the anxiety I was experiencing about my imminent death.
At first I was annoyed by her rudeness, but it didn’t take long for me to feel better.
Now, as a woman in her mid-twenties who wants to one day have children, my anxiety has attached itself to the idea of having fertility issues.
Deep down, I believe I have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (despite not having symptoms of either) or some other undiagnosed problem with my ovaries, and I’ve always had a feeling that when I try to have kids, I won’t be able to.
LISTEN: Megan Malkiewicz speaks about her struggles with fertility, and finally falling pregnant. Post continues after audio.
This is compounded by the fact that I’ve been very irresponsible with the pill for eight years and have never accidentally fallen pregnant. This can only mean one thing, and we all know what it is.
The niggling thought of my faulty ovaries has plagued me for a number of years now. I’ve desperately wanted to walk into a doctor’s office and yell: CAN I HAVE BABIES OR NO, but I thought that was a… ridiculous expectation. I was convinced there was no way to find out anything about your fertility unless you went to a gynecologist, had a bunch of invasive, unpleasant tests, and paid a lot of money.
That was until I heard about something called an AMH test.
AMH stands for Anti-Mullerian Hormone, and via a blood test, it’s possible to measure the levels of this hormone in a woman’s blood stream. The hormone is produced by Granulosa cells, which surround every egg in a woman’s ovary. Your AMH level, therefore, corresponds to how many eggs you have left.
It doesn’t matter if you’re on the pill or any other type of contraception – you can still have the blood test. Unfortunately, it isn’t covered by medicare, so it costs $98.
As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to have an AMH test.
In classic anxious-person fashion, however, I put it off for months and months. Of course, when you feel like you know there’s going to be something wrong, you want to delay hearing the devastating news. At least before I went to the doctor, I could tell myself there was some hope I was OK. Normal. Perfectly healthy.
Just over a month ago, I went and had the test. I had to wait about a week until my results were available, and again I put off getting my results because anxiety, avoidance, etc. Then after a busy day at work, I had a voicemail from the doctor's office.
They needed me to come in to discuss my results. That was it. There was definitely something wrong, because otherwise, why would they call? Maybe my fertility wasn't even the issue - I probably had some terrible kind of cancer they'd picked up in the blood test. I wouldn't even live long enough to think about having children.
It turned out the doctor actually wanted to discuss my iron being low, which I already knew. My AMH, on the other hand, was in the normal range. I was... fine. The doctor brushed over those results without a second thought, even though I wanted to ask, 'how fine? On the low side of fine? Borderline fine? Has there been an error? CHECK AGAIN.'
Despite my immediate uncertainty, having my AMH tested has given me some piece of mind. It's given me some assurance that I have a normal number of eggs left, and there's not some huge underlying problem that no one's picked up.
However, while an AMH test does indicate how many eggs you have left, it doesn't tell you about the quality of those eggs. An AMH test is considered to be one part of testing a woman's fertility, but it's not comprehensive.
Still, knowledge is power. And for some women, an AMH test can be a helpful tool in planning for their future.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. For more information talk to your GP.
Have you had your fertility tested? Would you be interested to know how fertile you are and would the results of the tests change your life plans in any way?