What we'll cover
⚡In a nutshell
- Making the decision to start a family is one of the biggest decisions you make in your life. Even if you’re not ready right now, getting better acquainted with your own body and fertility health is the most powerful first step you can make to give yourself options in the future.
- There is a simple hormone blood test that can provide you insights about your ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have), menopause onset and how your body will likely respond to IVF and egg freezing.
- Because your body changes quickly with age, it’s a good idea to retest your fertility hormones annually or every 6 months if you’re trying to get pregnant or coming off contraception.
🤔 Give yourself options
We’re faced with a lot of decisions in our lifetime, but possibly the biggest one is choosing to start a family (or not).
The thing is...
Women now have more options than ever in terms of choosing when (and if) to start creating their own mini-me.
This is great news! And another thing, we’re not in a rush either. The average Aussie woman is having their first child at 31 years old.
But, something to keep in mind is that age does hold a lot of the cards when it comes to our fertility. And no matter how good your Poker face is, age will always have the upper hand.
So, what can we do about it?
We can work off statistics and facts all day long but everyone is different and everyone has a different fertility curve.
So, it’s time to get better acquainted with your own body and fertility health.
We’ll get to the how real soon, but first, let us tell you why.
Having more information about our own body and our fertility gives us the power to make choices that align better with our goals. Whether that’s starting a family earlier, thinking about egg freezing or simply beginning the family planning conversation.
Now, more than ever, there’s a need to be educated and get access to information about our bodies earlier in life.
It’s about giving ourselves options and to start thinking about our family plans with the same feel-good confidence we get after watching an episode of Queer Eye (Yas Queen!).
We use information to make decisions about our fitness, what we eat, how we sleep and our finances. But when it comes to fertility, we’re stabbing in the dark.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
There is a simple blood test that can provide you insights about your ovarian reserve (how many eggs you have), ovulation (the process of releasing those eggs) and how your general health (like your thyroids) impact your fertility.
Screw the crystal ball, it’s time to take your future fertility into your own hands - here’s how.
🤷🏼♀️ Where to start?
There is something that can give you better predictions about your fertility than just age alone - your hormones.
Hormones are powerful chemical messengers in your body that are released into your bloodstream to control various functions of your body’s organs. They are bossy buggers and like to have control over telling how each part of your body should work, when to do it and for how long.
That said, hormones are closely linked with your fertility too. They regulate your monthly cycle and reproductive abilities.
So how do you get to know your hormones better? Well, for starters, there is a simple blood test you can take to measure your fertility hormones.
It’s the most powerful first step you can make to understand your fertility.
🤓 Hormones give clues about your fertility
Hormone blood tests have a lot to say about your fertility.
They help you understand your body’s ovulation process and check in on several hormones that support a healthy pregnancy.
But the key hormone for understanding your fertility is AMH (we’ll talk about the rest of the hormones in detail later).
Testing AMH can help you count how many eggs are left in your ovaries.
How does it do that?
Each egg inside our ovaries lives inside a fluid-filled sac known as a follicle. These follicles produce AMH. The more AMH we have in our bodies, the more eggs are likely to be in our ovaries.
AMH can also tell us other parts to our fertility story.
It can tell us when we are likely to reach menopause and how your body will likely respond to IVF and egg freezing.
Your fertility hormones in general can also tell you about your ovulation, or tell you if you are showing any signs of underlying conditions that may affect your fertility - like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
From there, Kin will help you start a conversation with your doctor or fertility specialist.
The more you know about your fertility hormones, the more it allows you to make informed decisions about planning a family in the future.
But, these tests are not an exact science.
😕 Test limitations
We’re focused on helping women know what testing can (and cannot) help us with when it comes to understanding our fertility.
So, it's important you know that these tests aren't perfect.
As much as you'd love some kind of fertile percentage score - they shouldn't be treated as the one source of fertile truth.
Fertility testing can not tell you your chances of getting pregnant. No test can. Your hormones are just one piece of the puzzle.
Let’s take it back to basics for a second.
To get pregnant, you need a number of steps to happen:
- Your ovary releases a healthy egg.
- The egg travels down the fallopian tube, making its way to the uterus.
- A healthy sperm joins the party and fertilises the egg.
- The fertilised egg implants to the lining of the uterus.
Where am I going with this?
Well, every little step is essential to a healthy pregnancy. And just like you’re following a recipe, each step depends on the one before it.
Your hormones can tell you the quantity of the eggs you have, but it can't tell you anything about the quality of your eggs.
So, hormones can help you understand your eggs and your body’s ovulation process, but it can’t tell you if there are structural issues within your reproductive organs. It also can’t tell you about the quality of sperm either.
On that note: Your fertility specialists may suggest some other types of tests that can give you more advanced insights to your fertility such as a Transvaginal ultrasound or a Fallopian tubes X-Ray. These tests provide much more insight to the physical structure of your reproductive organs.
Despite these limitations, the hormone test will be able to give you indications of whether there are some issues you need to have a conversation with your doctor about.
The main thing to remember is that by taking the hormone test, you're giving yourself more information that you can use to inform your family planning decisions and do what's extremely personal and right for you.
The more you know - the better, right? It’s the opposite of hindsight, and we like that.
🙋🏼 Sign me up!
Sweet, so you want in.
Traditionally, this process feels like it takes forever and you’re not wrong!
- You have to book your first appointment to ask your doctor for the test.
- Then, you get referred to a pathology to get your blood drawn.
- After that, you’ll come back to your doctor to get your results interpreted - which can be tricky to understand. Cue the fourth appointment!
- Most of us will get referred to a specialist to have the rest of our questions answered.
Suddenly you feel like you’re at the doctors every second week. Painful.
We’re doing hormone tests differently at Kin.
At Kin, we’re taking the same laboratory tests offered at the doctors and fertility clinics. However, unlike most lab results that leave you with just confusing numbers and ranges, we add a layer of interpretation to help you understand what your hormone levels mean and what you can do about them
Here’s how it goes down.
- You buy the test online.
- You go straight to the pathology clinic to get your blood drawn.
After that, you’ll receive fertility specialist-reviewed reports, in human speak, delivered to your fingertips in your online personalised fertility dashboard (ooh, sounds fancy).
One physical appointment, that’s it.
Then, we'll walk you through actionable next steps. By this point, if you need further consultation, Kin will connect you with our network of fertility specialists. Don’t worry, you won’t be in this alone and we’ll make sure all your questions are answered!
⏱ Make it an annual thing
It’s great to get started with your first test, but there’s more to your fertility than just a single snapshot.
It’s a good idea to retest your hormones every 12 months.
That way, you can see how your fertility hormones change and have the most up to date information to make decisions about your fertility.
This comes down to age being such a massive fertility factor. Your body changes quickly with age, even if you don’t notice it as much on the outside.
🙇♀️ Knowledge is power
With the information you learn about your hormones, you are better positioned to make decisions about when (and if) you want to start a family, whether or not egg freezing might be for you, and take action if your proactive tests show any red flags.
You’ll be in a much better position to have a conversation with your doctor to help you answer some questions that have been stressing you the eff out.
- Is my timeline for having kids likely to work out?
- Should I consider egg freezing?
- Am I going to need assisted reproductive technologies like IVF or IUI?
- What’s my family medical history? Will that impact me?
- Am I healthy? Do I need to exercise more?
😲 Hello, hormones
There are 8 fertility hormones we suggest you get familiar with.
Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH):
This one we mentioned earlier but for those who missed it. Basically, each egg inside our ovaries lives inside a follicle. The follicle (picture a sac) is responsible for making sure its egg grows up big and strong so one day it could turn into a little human.
These follicles produce hormones and, you guessed it - that hormone is AMH. So, when you measure this hormone, it helps give an indication of how many eggs we have in our ovarian reserve.
AMH has the ‘narrator's role’ in telling your fertility story as it gives you an indication of how many eggs you have.
However, the rest of these hormones still play an important part.
As you read through the rest, you’ll notice that they all somehow link in with each other - like a magical, holistic yellow-brick road to your fertility.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH):
FSH’s job is to grow those follicles and start ovulation. Your FSH levels give you information about any pituitary disorders or hormone imbalances you might have.
Estradiol is a sex hormone. It likes to make sure that the fertilised egg has a nice bed to lay on in your uterus. So, it thickens the uterine lining to allow the egg to successfully implant.
It’s tested along with FSH, since it can impact those levels. E2 and FSH like to chat constantly. When your E2 levels are high, your body lowers FSH in response. Since high E2 can mask a high FSH, we test these hormones together.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH):
LH is the hormone that tells your egg that it’s time to roll (triggering your ovulation).
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH):
Our thyroid gland has a say in all things to do with our metabolism - the process that converts everything we eat and drink into energy. TSH controls the production of our other thyroid hormones, regulating the thyroid function and reflecting our thyroid health.
It’s good to keep our thyroids happy, because if they aren’t happy they can suppress our ovulation. We are able to check this hormone to ensure our thyroid is healthy and balanced and won’t be holding back our egg!
Free Thyroxine (FT4):
FT4 is the main hormone released into our bloodstream by the thyroid gland. It cares about our digestion, heart and muscle function and brain development.
Too much or too little of this hormone in our bloodstream can cause changes in our metabolism, general health and fertility. We test this along with TSH to check that our thyroid is healthy and balanced.
Known as the milk hormone, prolactin stimulates breast milk production. High levels of prolactin can interfere with our ovulation.
Besides lactation, prolactin is also involved in more than 300 functions, including reproductive, metabolic, regulation of fluids, regulation of the immune system and behavioural functions.
Prolactin is typically generally high when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, which explains why women typically can’t get pregnant again while breastfeeding.
Free Testosterone (Free T):
Yes, women have testosterone too - it’s a steroid hormone that both men and women produce. For women, raised testosterone levels may lead to thick hair growth, excessive acne, increased muscle bulk and thinning hairline. Too little, and we may experience loss of bone mass or lower libido.
💭 Final thoughts
We all plan our timelines in life a little differently, especially when it comes to starting a family.
Fertility testing is about arming ourselves with knowledge about our fertility earlier in life. Science can tell us a lot, but it can be confusing.
This fertility test has been designed to help you use science to inform your family planning decisions and do what’s extremely personal and right for you. And, if things interrupt your timeline, you have options.
With a simple hormone blood test, you don’t have to wonder anymore and finally get some answers. If you’re curious about your fertility - Kin’s fertility test can help you get started.
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Dr. Vamsee Thalluri