Michelle Emblenton, biochemist at inviTRA, tells us how the antral follicle count is performed:
The actual follicle count is a procedure which is used to measure a woman's ovarian reserve and it is usually performed between days two and four of the menstrual cycle in the early follicular phase. The gynecologist will use a transvaginal ultrasound in which to perform the antral follicle count and, in this way, the procedure is painless and non-invasive. In general, the antral follicle count is considered to be normal when the gynecologist can count between 5 and 10 antral follicles in each ovary. A low ovarian reserve would be indicated when less than five antral follicles are counted in each ovary. And conversely, a high ovarian reserve would be when the specialist has counted more than 10 antral follicles in each ovary. In polycystic ovaries you can see often more than 12 or 13 antral follicles developing and they often look like a string of pearls on the ultrasound. Knowing the state of your ovarian reserve can help you make decisions on how and when to become a mother. For example, if you are a young woman and you know you want to delay motherhood until later in life, it's a good idea to get your ovarian reserve checked (this could be by antral follicle count and looking at your AMH hormone) and that way, if you have a lower ovarian reserve at an early age, you can look at fertility preservation to freeze your oocytes for later use in life. If your ovarian reserve is low, this is where assisted reproduction techniques can come into help and you may be able to achieve parenthood through techniques such as IVF. Knowing your antral follicle count not only gives you an idea of ovarian reserve, but it also helps the specialist in an IVF treatment to know how the ovary will respond to the ovarian stimulation. The higher the antral follicle count the more oocytes the specialists can expect to obtain during the egg retrieval process. If you have a very high antral follicle count your specialist may want to perform the ovarian stimulation using certain drugs that limit the risks of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, whereby the ovaries have an excessive response to the hormonal medication that is being used. By knowing your antral follicle count it helps the specialist to tailor your treatment to suit your needs.