pregnancy

'There's a test to help predict fertility. But at age 34, my GP wouldn't give it to me.'

“We only offer that to women who’ve been trying for at a year,” he said.

I walked outside the doctor’s office and my eyes welled in frustration. I was 34 and in the grip of baby panic but did not want to ‘try’ yet.

WATCH: Women share their strangest pregnancy cravings. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

I deeply wanted to be a mum and I was with the person I wanted to become a mum with, but I was unemployed, career in limbo, had financial insecurity and no fixed address.

Everything I read, and everyone I spoke to, told me to prioritise a baby. 35+ fertility and pregnancy complication statistics tormented me.

My metronome angst beat between wanting to punch the next person who said, “Don’t stress, women have babies in their 40s now,” to the icy rod that stabbed my chest every time I read the words ‘geriatric pregnancy’, or ‘advanced maternal age’, which next birthday, I would become.

All of this was underscored with the heartbreak of an 18-month unsuccessful attempt to re-enter a career in the capricious world of politics or journalism.

It was a bitter thought to watch my ambition dissolve into motherhood before I had a chance to get my career back on track. I wanted more time. That is unless I had some kind of information tailored to my fertility situation that advised me otherwise.

On Mamamia’s podcast, Before The Bump, I learnt about a simple blood test that can measure egg count. A GP can order it, most pathology labs can process it, and it costs about $90 (because it’s not covered by Medicare).

Why wasn’t this more widely known?

My girlfriends would often talk about freezing eggs, IVF, sperm donation, but we didn’t know about an egg count test. As we crept towards our late thirties – childless, but still wanting to keep our options open, why weren’t we all getting the test?

The anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test measures the hormone produced by cells from the small follicles in a woman’s ovaries. The hormone level gives an indication of the number of eggs you have.

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The test won’t tell you other factors that can affect the reproductive system like Endometriosis, Uterine Fibroids, cysts, infections or stress. But it can indicate Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

And while the AMH test indicates the number of eggs, it will not deliver the holy grail of fertility information, the QUALITY of eggs. No, the only way to test quality is to fertilize the eggs to see if embryos form. So basically, to make a baby.

If you’re not ready for that, the AMH test is at least some information.

Male fertility is so blunt: all the main bits on the outside. A new load of sperm regenerates every 64 days. One explosion in a cup and a fertility specialist has most of the picture.

But a woman’s fertility is an elusive and complex force of nature. She is with us for a fleeting moment and the further we move into our thirties, the more cryptic she becomes.

My first peek under the veil of my own fertility took three GPs before I was given the AMH test. My result was 11.2. It’s in the lower percentile range, but normal for my age. If the results came back abnormally low, there’s no question I would’ve reprioritised a baby sooner rather than later.

And if the test does identify a low egg count, its best to know at 28 rather than 35 – right?

The cheap, non-invasive AMH test is not subsidised by Medicare, but IVF is. Why fund a last resort fertility procedure but not a simple test that can identify a factor to consider way before IVF is on the table?

Women should be trusted by the medical community to understand the results and not presumed to misuse or misinterpret the information. And this argument should not be used to hold the test back from women like myself just looking for a little more information.

Listen to Before the Bump, Mamamia’s fertility podcast. Post continues below.

For me, having a normal AMH result didn’t make me prioritise a baby but it didn’t make me feel less panicked either. Instead, I formed the following logic: if I had a normal egg pool for my age, it was statistically likely I’d also take a normal amount of time to fall pregnant.

If I stopped using contraception methods, I anticipated three to six months at least. It could even take a year, I thought.

I wasn’t actively trying and I rarely had sex because my fiancé worked away. In a calendar year, there were only five months his presence would line-up with my cycle.

And yet, I fell pregnant at the first possible chance after a single night with him. Pregnant with twins.

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Fuck.

Image: Supplied.

And I did land the, ‘get my career back on track’ role I’d been pining over for two years. I moved to New Zealand for it. I would’ve been two days-pregnant on my first day in the job, and in my new country less than a week.

When I read the pregnancy test in the office toilet cubicle, I was upset. I grieved my job for a long time. There would be no maternity leave either.

But I persisted on the path of acceptance to arrive seven months later, grateful and so in love with the two souls growing inside of me.

Who was I to think I could harness the enigmatic force of female fertility? To predict her next move, or to think something as uncompromising as mathematics could let me know her secrets? I think I was given twins to teach me this lesson.

As women, we can’t predict our fertility or conception journey with accuracy. And that means often we can’t plan. So instead, we have to make compromises and sacrifices.

Even with the AMH test, so much is unknown. But the test is not useless. It shouldn’t be discouraged to women who fall outside the 'can’t fall pregnant' category. I believe it should be covered by Medicare.

And, it should routinely be offered to women over thirty who are thinking about a baby in the future.

Feature image: Supplied.

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