Fertility

What to know about FSH and ovarian reserve (& the brand new home test that gave us insights in 10 minutes)

Emma Harpham in partnership with Bird&Be  |   5 Jul 2024


We tried Bird&Be’s Ovarian Reserve Screening Test – here’s what we learned 

Here on TRB’s female-led team, we’ve all got different health, fertility, and wellbeing goals. 

Something we’re on the same page on, though — we’re all a bit obsessed with trying out new ways to learn what’s going on with our hormones and cycles, each month.

When the opportunity came up to try Bird&Be’s brand new Ovarian Reserve Screening Test — designed as a speedy, budget-friendly first step to empower us with egg-quantity insights at home — three of us on the content team jumped at the chance.

Bird&Be knows firsthand how hard the trying to conceive (TTC) journey can be. That’s why they offer doctor-backed supplements and at-home tests to support you along the way.

Here are our team’s notes on the science and process, plus a peek into what we learned. 

Spoiler alert – it really was as easy as it sounds.

What is the Bird&Be Ovarian Reserve Screening Test?

Bird&Be’s super sensitive, cutting-edge Ovarian Reserve Screening Test measures your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels and gives you rapid results that help you easily screen for low ovarian reserve, at home.

Whether you’re actively TTC or simply want to understand more about your reproductive health for future planning, the earlier you have information about what’s going on with your hormones, the better.

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If, like some of us on the team, you’re not currently planning for pregnancy but want a quick insight into your egg quantity, you can benefit from screening for diminished ovarian reserve early on.

For those actively trying to conceive (TTC), it’s recommended to see a doctor for an evaluation if you’ve been trying for less than a year if you’re under 35, or less than six months if you’re over 35. So, screening can provide vital information about your ovarian reserve that could support you in taking steps forward in your journey without having to endure clinic visits and wait times first.

Think testing might benefit you? TRB readers in the US and Canada can get 15% OFF with code THERIBBONBOX15

What is FSH? 

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is one of several key hormones that help support and influence our fertility.

FSH is released by the pituitary gland in our brain and is crucial for the growth and maturation of our ovarian follicles, which are the tiny sacs in our ovaries that contain eggs.

It’s linked to the quantity of eggs we have, and its levels are often evaluated to help us understand our unique fertility profile.

FSH and ovarian reserve – what’s the link?

To help us understand the FSH and ovarian reserve link a little better before testing, we went back to menstrual cycle 101

And the clue is in the name here. For those of us with uteruses, our FSH levels will rise at the start of each monthly cycle, stimulating several ovarian follicles to grow. Usually, one of these follicles will reach full maturity per month, releasing an egg during ovulation. 

Ovarian reserve refers to the number of our remaining eggs, and as our ovarian reserve decreases, this is reflected in our FSH levels rising. Our ovaries and our brains (specifically our hypothalamus and pituitary gland) are in a continuous feedback loop. As our ovaries age, both egg quality and quantity diminish.

As our ovarian reserve decreases and our ovaries start to produce fewer hormones, our body increases FSH production to try to encourage our ovaries to work harder and develop our remaining follicles. 

What is a normal FSH level to get pregnant?

There isn’t a specific FSH level that can predict whether or not you’ll get pregnant. Ovarian reserve, including FSH, is a measure of egg quantity, and not egg quality.

An FSH level of less than 10mIU/mL is considered normal by doctors if measured on day 3 of your cycle.

While the range is wide, any FSH result between 11 and 38 mIU/mL is generally considered high and warrants a chat with your doctor about diagnostic testing to assess your ovarian reserve. You’ll usually be offered a pelvic ultrasound to count the number of follicles in your ovaries (known as an antral follicle count) and additional bloodwork including AMH tests.

A high FSH doesn’t mean that you can’t conceive. It’s simply a helpful indicator of your egg quantity, which may impact your timelines and encourage you to expedite the next steps.

It’s important to highlight that ovarian reserve is a spectrum, with menopause at the tail end. You may have below average reserve, or lower reserve and still have a normal FSH level. But as the ovarian reserve continues to decrease, a rise in FSH will be detected, which should empower you to get more information about your ovarian reserve from a clinic.

On the team, we’re not all actively trying to conceive at the moment, but it was good to know what constitutes a normal FSH level, heading into testing with Bird&Be.

What should we know about ovarian reserve testing at home?

Until recently, initial testing for ovarian reserve has meant a trip to the clinic for a pelvic ultrasound and blood test, which usually requires a referral and a bit of waiting around, as well as the associated costs. Now, advancements in home testing like Bird&Be’s Ovarian Reserve Screening Test let us reliably check our FSH level ourselves, at home. This is one important marker to screen for any significant decrease in your ovarian reserve.

So how does ovarian reserve testing at home actually work? Well, Bird&Be’s screening test uses a pee strip designed to detect elevated FSH levels in your urine, which can, as we’ve unpacked above, indicate a lower ovarian reserve.

The instructions that come with Bird&Be’s screening test are really clear and simple. For best results, they recommend testing on days 3, 4, and 5 of your menstrual cycle, with day 1 being the first full day of bleeding.

And when it comes to accuracy, the Bird&Be test scores pretty impressively — it’s over 99% accurate compared to FSH blood tests. Because your hormones can vary from cycle to cycle, they include 6 pee strips in a pack so that you can test over two cycles, which is another big tick for accuracy.

So, knowing all of this, what’s our final wrap up?

Review: the Bird&Be Ovarian Reserve Test Kit  

1. The process was straightforward and convenient

First off – the process was really as easy and straightforward as the package suggests, which is a huge plus for everyone on our busy content team!

Senior Editor Jessie shared, “I’ve got two little ones already, so mornings are usually pretty manic in our house as we prep for the school run.

We’re tentatively thinking about baby number three right now, so for getting an idea of where my body is at, this test was a no-brainer for me.”  

what is FSH

The only sample needed is your morning urine in a clean, dry container (Bird&Be even separately sell a neat reusable collection cup for this which we love for those monitoring month to month) and then you need to dip the absorbent end of the strip in for 10 seconds. 

After that, it’s just a matter of popping the soaked strip on a dry, non-absorbant surface and setting a 10-minute timer whilst you wait for the result to develop. So no problems there.

2. You get speedy, easy-to-read results

Another team win is that we found the results were super straightforward to read and interpret. You just need to compare the T (test) line against the Color Reference Chart included in the pack.

Anyone who is on any sort of fertility journey will know that clarity and certainty are super important, and this test helps give you just that.

Your results will show one of the following:

  • Normal Results: Less than 10 mIU/mL suggests a normal FSH level.
  • Elevated Results: Between 10 mIU/mL and 25 mIU/mL suggests a risk of low ovarian reserve.
  • High Results: Over 25 mIU/mL indicates you may be transitioning into menopause (or have already reached menopause if levels are over 50 mIU/mL).
ovarian reserve testing at home

Not only that – you really do get insights in just 10 minutes. Content Manager Hollie said, “I went to make my usual morning coffee, and had the Bird&Be results in the time it took to return to my bathroom with said cup of coffee.”

3. There’s added support for next steps, if needed

If the majority of your screening test results do show elevated or high FSH levels, Bird&Be recommends that you see a doctor for diagnostic testing to get a more complete picture of your ovarian reserve. 

And you’re not just left to go it alone either. Something I personally thought was fantastic about Bird&Be is that they have a tool that actually helps connect you with fertility clinics and health practitioners in your area so that you can explore your results further.

All you need to do is answer a few questions about your test results and where you are on your fertility journey, and they’ll take care of the rest. 

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Keen to test too? If you’re based in the US or Canada, you can order yours today and get 15% OFF with code THERIBBONBOX15.

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