When it comes to modern times, convenience is key. And what is more convenient than doing a medical test from the comfort of your own home?
At-home fertility testing may seem like a comfortable first step, but before you do, it’s important to know the benefits and limitations.
A recent study released by Social Science & Medicine found that while at-home testing is viewed as a viable alternative to traditional medical testing, “participants were left with incorrect assumptions about the power of hormone testing to predict fertility.” Findings emphasized the need for education around the accuracy and capability of at-home tests.
When evaluating fertility-related hormones for women, tests commonly focus on the following:
- Anti-Müllerian hormone: predicts ovarian reserve (how many eggs are in the ovaries)
- Follicle-Stimulating hormone: from the pituitary gland and starts the ovulation process
- Estradiol: sex hormone from the ovary
- Luteinizing hormone: from the pituitary gland and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, surges prior to ovulation
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone: impacts your thyroid and general health / fertilityTestosterone: sex hormone men and women create
At-home testing exists for all hormones listed above, and you can get a full panel of them all for less than $200. Every woman is different and a test that may be right for one may be unnecessary for another.
Test results from at-home options do not provide an interpretation. Some results are abnormal but are not flagged in the results. You also don’t know the reputability and integrity of the laboratory. All of these factors will leave you with a lot of questions that are best answered by a doctor.
I had a patient come in after taking an at-home fertility test that showed she was outside the normal range for egg count. She didn’t know what that meant in terms of how it impacted her fertility, and because she was uninformed of her abnormal results, she waited nine months to see me. I explained what the test results meant but explained that we would also have to test again because so much time had passed and I cannot vouch for the integrity of an unknown laboratory. What she thought was a cheaper shortcut ended up costing her more and she lost valuable time - the MOST important fertility asset.
If you are still tempted to do at-home testing, at the very least, please bring those results to a physician for interpretation once you receive them.
At Fertility Centers of Illinois, we start with testing the Follicle-Stimulating hormone and Estradiol to get an idea of a woman’s fertility status. The first steps also include a comprehensive evaluation of the ovaries and reproductive system through ultrasound and an Antral Follicle Count (to assess ovarian reserve and health). These screening tests provide a solid base from which to evaluate the next steps and what, if any, additional testing is needed. All of these tests are offered for only $90 through the Fertility Awareness Checkup (which also includes a semen analysis for men if you have a partner you’d like tested too) and should you move forward with treatment, that fee is applied to your services. All test results are conducted in a state-of-the-art laboratory and interpreted by an experienced reproductive endocrinologist.
Additional fertility testing needed is commonly covered by insurance as many patients have diagnostic coverage. Why not do the right tests from the beginning?
Another huge factor to keep in mind is that as women, our fertility is complex. Ranging from hormone imbalance, ovulation, egg health, conception, and gestation, there is a lot at play. It is an incredibly delicate process and because of this, it’s no surprise we may need help to have a baby. When you add in undiagnosed conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Endometriosis, it is clear why a simple at-home test cannot provide the information and guidance you need.
I’m a fertility doctor who needed treatment to overcome secondary infertility. Facing a test alone without the guidance of someone who can truly help you can set you up for unnecessary fear and confusion. Research has shown that infertility can cause the same amount of stress and emotional trauma as a cancer diagnosis. Why potentially face that kind of stress alone with a test result you may not be able to trust?
Whichever path you choose, I wish you good fortune on your journey to parenthood. Be kind to yourself and know there are always people to help if you need it.
Author Bio: Dr. Allison K. Rodgers, Fertility Centers of Illinois