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Egg cell count during IVF predicts success of pregnancy

17 March 2010
The number of egg cells found during an IVF treatment can predict the chances of a miscarriage or chromosomal defect during the pregnancy. This is the conclusion of the PhD research conducted by Maaike Haadsma, who is training at the University Medical Center Groningen to become a clinical geneticist. Haadsma studied the reduction in egg cell numbers and egg cell quality as women grow older. She will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 24 March 2010.

The average age at which women in the Netherlands have their first baby has increased over the past thirty years from roughly 24 in the 1970s to 29 now. When they are older, however, women have a smaller chance of successfully becoming pregnant, and are more likely to have a miscarriage. The chances of their child having a chromosomal defect are also higher. This phenomenon is known as reproductive ageing.

Reduced quality and quantity

Reproductive ageing is caused by a reduction in the number and quality of egg cells, and eventually leads to menopause. The reduction of egg cell quality is caused by an increase in cell division errors, leading to the creation of cells with one chromosome too many or too few. It is unknown whether the reduction in egg cell quantity is linked to the reduction in quality. If it is linked, then the number of egg cells that a woman has may be used to predict her chances of becoming pregnant, having a miscarriage, or having a baby with a chromosomal defect. 

Egg cell count during IVF

Trainee clinical geneticist Maaike Haadsma tested various methods of determining egg cell quantity. She studied information on more than 1800 women who had become pregnant following IVF treatment. During IVF treatment, hormonal treatment leads to the maturation of multiple egg cells. Haadsma wanted to know whether the number of egg cells obtained during IVF treatment could be used to predict the successful outcome of a pregnancy. She discovered that this was indeed the case – when the number of obtained egg cells during IVF treatment is high, the chance of the child being born alive and without a chromosomal defect is higher. 

Testing egg cell quantity

Haadsma also discovered that other methods of testing egg cell quantity, such as hormone and sonography tests, do not predict the success of a pregnancy. Perhaps these tests do not give an accurate impression of the actual egg cell quantity.

Curriculum Vitae

Maaike Haadsma (Haren, 1978) studied medicine in Groningen. She conducted her research at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the UMCG. She is now a trainee clinical geneticist at the Department of Genetics. The title of her thesis is Female reproductive ageing: the clinical relation between oocyte quantity and oocyte quality. Her supervisor is Prof. M.J. Heineman, and her co-supervisor is Dr A. Hoek.

Note for the press

Contact: the UMCG press office, tel. 050 -361 2200, e-mail:
Last modified:15 September 2017 3.29 p.m.

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