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Ovarian reserve should be added to routine tests such as cervical cancer screening to women without children aged over 30 years, according to latest research.

A greater uptake of ovarian reserve screening may help identify women at increased risk of premature diminished fertility, say Flinders University researchers.

Australians continued to have a poor understanding of the age-related decline in natural and IVF-assisted conception despite increased education, Flinders University Professor of Reproductive Medicine Kelton Tremellen said.

“People generally overestimate female fertility and plan to delay having a family without anticipating difficulty conceiving.”

Professor Tremellen said it was alarming that community knowledge about ovarian reserve screening was scant.

“Such screening may prompt women identified as having low ovarian reserve to bring forward their plans for natural conception or possibly undertake fertility preservation (oocyte freezing).”

Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) is a hormone secreted by cells in developing egg sacs (follicles). The level of AMH in a woman’s blood is generally a good indicator of her ovarian reserve. AMH ovarian screening which was developed in France in the 1940s, is available in commercial labs in Australia.

“We suggest that addition of AMH ovarian reserve screening to routine tests, such as cervical screening, for women without children who are aged more than 30 years, would improve reproductive awareness and may enhance their chances of parenthood by identifying women with accelerated ageing of their ovaries,” Professor Tremellen said.

“Despite Australia’s four-decade trend towards older parenthood, men and women consistently overestimate natural and IVF-assisted fertility with increasing age, which may explain why many feel comfortable delaying starting a family until after 30 years, a stage when fertility is already compromised.”

The primary reasons before starting a family were availability of a suitable partner and attainment of educational and career goals, the study found.

Professor Tremellen said poor understanding of the age-related decline in reproduction suggested education campaigns had so far been ineffective; and casted doubt on whether further education campaigns were the best approach to reverse the trend of delayed childrearing.

The research was published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health.