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This article waslast modified on 10 July 2017.

Women considering or undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) received some important news from a study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Research workers from Uppsala University in Sweden found that women with the highest blood levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) are more likely to have a successful birth following IVF than women of similar age with lower levels of the hormone. Previous studies have shown that AMH levels can indicate how many eggs remain in a woman's ovaries, but this study is the first to show that higher levels of the hormone can indicate the likelihood of a successful pregnancy and birth, regardless of the number of eggs retrieved during the IVF procedure.

In women AMH is made by small follicles in each ovary. It helps to regulate the follicle’s growth and the growth within it of a cell from which an egg develops. The level of AMH in the blood remains low until puberty after which it rises significantly. Levels decline slowly during women’s reproductive years as the number of follicles fall, and AMH is usually not detectable after the menopause.

The Swedish researchers studied 892 consecutive women aged less than 42 who had a total of 1,230 IVF cycles between 2008 and 2011. Participants were divided into three groups according to their AMH levels before IVF. The proportion of live births that followed each IVF cycle were

  • 10.7% for those with the lowest AMH values
  • 22.0% for those with intermediate values
  • 32.5% for those with the highest values

AMH remained significantly associated with both pregnancy rate and live birth rate after statistically controlling for both the women’s age and the number of eggs retrieved for IVF.

"For women who are struggling to get pregnant, a high AMH level should be very reassuring," said Thomas Brodin MD, lead author of the study, in a news release. He added that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is linked to ovulation problems, are likely to be good candidates for IVF as they often have high levels both of AMH and of eggs in their ovaries.

It is sad to report that Sir Robert Edwards, who developed IVF with Dr. Patrick Steptoe, died in his sleep on 8 May 2013 after a long illness. He was 87. Since the birth of the world's first "test-tube baby" on 25 July 25 1978 an estimated 5 million babies have been born worldwide following IVF. Dr Steptoe died in 1988. Sir Robert was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2010 for his work in developing the technique and in 2011 he was knighted "for services to human reproductive biology".