Christopher Barry is a freelance writer with over twenty years of experience covering health and lifestyle news for major publications such as The National Post, Vice, and Maxim.
When couples are having difficulty trying to conceive a child, there are any number of tests doctors will conduct in the effort to diagnose the issue. One common test included in an infertility workup measures AMH levels in the blood. When AMH levels are lower than normal, it’s likely the woman has fewer egg cells remaining in her ovaries.
What are AMH Levels?
AMH stands for Anti-Mullerian Hormone but is also referred to as Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS). It’s a hormone secreted from immature egg cells — particularly when they’re small follicles — with the potential to mature and be released from the ovary.
Measuring the amount of AMH circulating in the bloodstream helps practitioners determine the relative amount of egg cells remaining in a woman. AMH levels can be used to determine the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant naturally, without medical intervention. The test is also often used to determine if a woman is a suitable candidate for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Both egg quality and quantity naturally decrease as a women ages. On average, women typically have AMH levels of 1.0 to 4.0 ng/ml. The expected range for a fertile female, however, is further broken down by age:
- 25 years old: 5.4 ng/ml
- 30 years old: 3.5 ng/ml
- 35 years old: 2.3 ng/ml
- 40 years old: 1.3 ng/ml
- Over 43 years old: 0.7 ng/ml
Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) typically have higher than average levels of AMH. This is because the main diagnostic feature of PCOS is to measure the number of immature follicles, which often fail to mature and ovulate. Hence, an increase in follicles yields a higher AMH level.
When a woman has a particularly low AMH level for her age, she may be experiencing premature ovarian aging/failure. When she is older than 35, it’s believed her diminished ovarian reserves are the result of natural processes. While the average age of women entering into menopause is 51, most can expect a significant loss of fertility before they reach their mid-40s.
Can You Get Pregnant with Low AMH levels?
The short answer is yes, you can get pregnant with low AMH levels. Many women have been told they will never conceive naturally but nevertheless wind up birthing a healthy baby by surprise. However, a woman is statistically more likely to conceive with low AMH levels if the remaining eggs she has are optimized.
It’s also possible to increase one’s AMH levels as well, which would result in more eggs being available to mature and ovulate (or be retrieved for IVF).
Ways to Improve AMH Levels Naturally
There are things you can do to specifically increase your AMH level, and as an added bonus, you may increase other desirable hormone levels as well. Here are a few tips on how best to go about it.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eating well is always the first step towards maintaining good health, but it can also directly improve your AMH levels. Try to eliminate (or largely restrict) processed foods, and opt instead for a diet full of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and proteins.
Lower your BMI if you are overweight
If your Body Mass Indexis calculated to be 25 or greater, your AMH levels could improve by successfully lowering it. Since you’re unlikely to grow any taller, the only way to accomplish this is by reducing your weight. This can be achieved in conjunction with eating well and regular exercise. If the BMI metric isn’t appropriate for your personal situation, consider your body fat percentage. Excess fat can cause a variety of issues, including hormone imbalance.
It’s easy to become stressed when you are facing infertility. However, reducing your stress level has a positive effect on your hormonal balance as well, AMH included. Consider incorporating a daily routine of meditation, yoga or breathing exercises into your life, and do your best to try and avoid stressful situations.
Increase Your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Omega-3 is found in most seafood and can be helpful for increasing AMH levels. Fish oils are another option to increase your Omega 3 consumption.
One of the best supplements for improving AMH levels is DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), and better, it’s available over the counter. DHEA is most beneficial for women under 38 years old who have low AMH.
Vitamin D supplements
Another supplement that has been shown to increase AMH levels is Vitamin D. Over 40% of adultsin the US don’t get enough of this important vitamin.
Other Ways to Boost AMH Levels
While there is currently no prescription medication proven to increase AMH, there are some additional therapies you may find beneficial.
Although it’s not entirely understood exactly how acupuncture aids with conception, there does appear to be a positive correlation between this ancient practice and fertility. Make sure your therapist is specifically versed in fertility acupuncture.
Massage has been shown to reduce stress and improve circulation. Look for a therapist who specializes in fertility massage, focusing on the reproductive system.
While not directly correlated to AMH levels, smoking tobacco is known to inhibit fertility. Even if pregnancy is achieved, there are numerous negative health outcomes associated with smoking while pregnant.
While measuring AMH levels are helpful towards gauging a woman’s fertility level, it’s not the only factor to consider. A few lifestyle changes, in addition to a variety of supplements and fertility enriching techniques, can potentially improve AMH levels and, by extension, a woman’s ability to conceive.
Photo courtesy of Self