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Ovarian ageing

Mr Amit Shah , Mr Anil Gudi and Prof Roy homburg

The ovary is probably the most dynamic organ in the female body. However, it is also the organ that “ages” first. The ovaries’ duties are to present eggs every month that have the potential to ovulate and be fertilised by sperm to produce a pregnancy and, in addition, they must produce hormones in the right amounts and at the right time which is really a wonderful feat of coordination.

At birth the female newborn has 1-2 million germ cells (eggs). By the time puberty is reached only 300,000 remain and by the age of 35-37 years, the number remaining is down to 10,000-25,000. A short time after the menopause no eggs are to be found in the ovaries. As the ovary has to ensure just one good egg per month for ovulation (about 400 in total during the reproductive life span) this seems a remarkable waste of eggs!

The female body also has the remarkable capacity to utilise the best quality eggs (e.g. those most likely to produce a pregnancy) earlier in the reproductive live span so that the quality of the remaining eggs at advancing age is relatively poor. This and the dwindling number account for the difficulties in conceiving at a later age.

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