How fast is the biological clock ticking? Now women can know for sure.
Australian researchers they have devised a simple hormone test that will be able to tell women how many eggs they have in their ovaries.
The so-called 'egg timer' blood test would be able to accurately predict ovum levels based on the concentration of a specific fertility hormone, said conception specialist Peter Illingworth. It could revolutionise family planning and fertility treatment.
'I think this is a big step forward,' said Professor Illingworth, medical director of IVF Australia.
'What the test will do is identify those younger women who may well be at serious risk of not having children easily when they're older,' he told public broadcaster ABC.
'It will identify women who are at risk of having premature menopause, for example, and allow them to plan how active they should be about fertility treatment.'
Women who had undergone treatment for cancer or endometriosis or had ovarian surgery, in particular, would benefit from the anti-mullerian hormone test, he said, which would cost just A$65 (S$82).
It could also save couples tens of thousands of dollars in expensive but ultimately futile in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments, Prof Illingworth added of the test, which will routinely be offered at the nation's IVF clinics as soon as next month.
Women are born with an average of one million to two million eggs in their ovaries. The eggs are shed monthly until menopause, with a 20-year-old woman typically having 200,000 eggs.
That number halves as she enters her 30s and dwindles to as low as 2,000 after the age of 40, Agence France-Presse reported.
Australian infertility information support and advocacy group Access has welcomed the new test, ABC News reported.
Access spokesman Marie Pickins said many couples have no medical explanation for their infertility, and any research that advances that understanding is welcome.
But not everyone was thrilled by the idea.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Ms Claire Harvey said the last thing some women want is to turn it into a time bomb countdown. What if the answer is that she has 400 eggs left?
'Conception is not a simple numbers game. It's not just about biology. It's not about timing. For most of us, it is still about love,' she wrote.