Women are born with a certain number of eggs in their ovaries that stay throughout their lifetime. As the women age, the number decreases until they reach menopause or stop ovulating.
But, how many eggs do women have is a common question meandering in every woman’s mind. For a woman, the number of eggs and their quality are essential characteristics determining their possibility of getting pregnant.
All the cells in the female body regenerate, except for egg cells. A woman is born with a stipulated number of eggs and does not multiply in number or grow but decreases. The ovaries are the production houses of mature eggs. After puberty, one or two follicles develop in the ovaries that release a mature egg at the time of ovulation.
Ovulation is the right time for an egg to reach the sperm in the fallopian tubules. Many factors govern the development, maturity, and release of eggs. And so, a woman’s reproductive, hormonal, environmental, and overall health condition affects the egg quantity, quality, and process of ovulation.
This article gives insight into the number of eggs a woman is born with, factors that affect the quality and quantity of eggs, a deep dive into the diagnostic investigations, and more.
In this Article
- 1 How many eggs is a woman born with?
- 2 How many eggs will a woman have by the age of 30?
- 3 How many eggs remain by the age of 40?
- 4 What happens at the time of menopause?
- 5 What are the factors affecting the egg quantity and quality?
- 6 Tests to measure a Woman’s egg count
- 7 Fertility options for a woman with a low egg count
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
How many eggs is a woman born with?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), a female foetus typically has around 6–7 million eggs at 20 weeks of gestation, eventually dropping to 1–2 million at birth.
The number of egg cells or oocytes in the ovaries decreases by around 11,000 each month before puberty. The onset of puberty is when the hypothalamus (an endocrine gland near the brain) produces the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) that causes FSH production. And the uterine follicles begin their cycle of producing mature eggs.
The typical time of puberty in females is around 12 to 13 years. However, for some, it may start much earlier or later. At puberty, a female ovary houses nearly 3,00,00 to 5,00,00 eggs. A woman, after puberty, loses more eggs each month during her menstrual cycles.
At the start of the menstrual cycle, a woman can lose up to 1,00 immature eggs each month. However, the number of eggs lost every month decreases gradually after puberty.
How many eggs will a woman have by the age of 30?
A woman is most fertile in her mid or late 20s. At this age, she has a 25 to30% chance of conceiving each month.
According to ACOG, a woman’s fertility begins to decline by the age of 32, when they usually have 1,20,000 eggs remaining and a 20% chance of getting pregnant per menstrual cycle.
This rate of fertility decline in a woman increases rapidly by the age of 37 when the egg numbers come down to 25,000 eggs. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that around 1 in 5 couples with women above 35 years experience difficulty in conceiving.
How many eggs remain by the age of 40?
By the age of 40, a woman has only a 5% chance of conceiving per cycle. Increasing age adds to reduced ovarian reserves and low possibilities of conceiving. In such scenarios, they also have fewer possibilities for successful fertility treatment, such as In-vitro Fertilisation(IVF).
What happens at the time of menopause?
Menopause is a phase when a woman stops ovulating. Some reach this stage earlier, while some get there late. However, by menopause, a woman is left with less than 1000 eggs in her ovaries.
The hormones do not help here, as the immature eggs become resistant to FSH. The decrease in egg count also leads to low oestrogen and progesterone production. The age at which a woman reaches menopause depends on many factors, including the number of eggs she has at birth, health condition, and treatment.
What are the factors affecting the egg quantity and quality?
Apart from age, the egg count and quality are affected by many medical, environmental, and lifestyle factors that include:
- Medical conditions, such as endometriosis, ovulation disorders, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), irregular menstruations, and immune disorders can cause poor-quality eggs.
- Medications, such as chemotherapeutic drugs, radiation therapy, certain antibiotics, and other medications (taken irregularly or without prescriptions) can negatively impact egg quality.
- Stress is another major factor that disrupts hormonal balance, causing immature egg outcomes.
- Lifestyle factors like excess caffeine intake, alcohol abuse, smoking, being over or underweight, and poor nutrition can affect ovarian functions, causing low-quality eggs.
Tests to measure a Woman’s egg count
Investigations done to check the egg count includes:
- Antral follicle test: This test involves ultrasound waves that help count the visible follicles in the ovaries. This test allows one to determine the total egg count. And for a woman freezing eggs, this test enables them to know the number of eggs that can be frozen during one stimulation cycle.
- Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) test: The anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is a specialised protein hormone produced by the developing follicles. The AMH levels in the blood can help detect the number of follicles in the ovaries and also helps estimate the total egg count.
However, it is required to consult a fertility doctor to know your possibilities of getting pregnant and understand your reproductive health better.
Fertility options for a woman with a low egg count
If a woman’s eggs are low in number, her ovarian reserves are low, or she has a premature ovarian failure (POF) that leads to early menopause, she can always consider egg or embryo donation options or opt for egg freezing at an early age.
Assisted Reproductive Technology addresses nearly every infertility issue with its spectrum of advanced treatment options. Women with low egg count can also check for fertility options with the assistance of a fertility specialist. Here are some of the possible options.
- Egg donation: The process involves eggs donated by another woman in her mid-20s or early 30s. In an egg donation cycle, the woman needs to take fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs in a particular cycle. The donated eggs are frozen for further use.
During usage, the eggs are fertilised in-vitro, and the developing embryo is placed in the mother’s uterus.
- Egg Freezing or Fertility Preservation: Women who want to delay childbearing can consider egg freezing. During this process, a woman takes fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries and produce multiple eggs. The eggs are retrieved and stored at sub-zero temperatures for future use.
When the woman is ready to conceive, the fertility specialist thaws the egg before fertilising it with the male partner’s sperm.
- Superovulation with timed Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): In this procedure, a woman must take fertility medications to stimulate multiple mature egg production. At the right time of ovulation, the washed and processed sperm from the male partner is inseminated into the woman’s uterine duct for fertilisation and embryo implantation.
A female foetus is born with a stipulated number of eggs that decreases by puberty, and by menopause, a woman is left with nearly 1000+ eggs. Though the most fertile period for a woman is during her 20s, the quantity and quality of her eggs depend on innumerable factors.
But, people concerned about their low egg numbers due to hormonal issues, medical conditions, cancer treatment, and others can consider other fertility options, such as egg donation or egg freezing.
Connect with your fertility specialist to know more about fertility treatments and to get the best treatment for your fertility concern.
Frequently Asked Questions
The AMH levels in a woman’s blood help determine the number of follicles present in the ovaries. The more follicles a woman poses, the more eggs she can produce, and the more possibilities of conception will be.
A Woman can ovulate only one egg per menstrual cycle. During the menstrual cycle, one or two follicles develop to produce mature eggs. At the time of ovulation, only one mature egg is released that travels down to the fallopian tube.
According to ACOG, a woman is most fertile during her mid 20’s or early 30’s. By the age of 32, her fertility begins to decline, and by the age of 37, the decline progresses rapidly, making it difficult for her to get pregnant.