Evaluating fertility through traditional methods isn’t a straightforward process. Typically fertility specialists instruct patients to spend time trying to conceive before considering fertility evaluation. The official clinical guideline from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggest at least 12 months of “regular sexual intercourse” for those under 35 and six months for couples over the age of 35. That is unless the patients have known fertility issues. Since fertility testing can be costly and invasive, medical professionals figure there is little reason to go that route unless a problem is suspected.
But while this methodology is understandable, playing the waiting game might not suit every family. Enter at-home fertility tests. For just a fraction of in-clinic rates, you collect a sample of your blood or urine at home or at a lab and mail it off. Within weeks you can find out what your different hormone levels say about your reproductive health. This option is growing increasingly popular. In 2019, the global fertility services market size generated $20,388.61 million, and experts project it to reach $25,709.64 million by 2027.
At-home fertility tests offer a peek into your broader reproductive health, giving you a baseline understanding of your fertility. However, some people have reservations about taking fertility tests at home. Here’s what you need to know about going the DIY fertility testing route.
What Do At-Home Fertility Tests Actually Test?
At-home tests differ from brand to brand. Some companies offer different options related to women’s health and home fertility tests for females – like LetsGetChecked and Everlywell. While others, such as Proov and Modern Fertility, offer only one kit that measures hormones related to women’s health and ovulation.
For the most part, the tests use a finger prick to measure hormones in your blood. Keep in mind that any form of hormonal birth control may affect test results. So, if you’re on birth control or take other medication that influences hormone levels, the companies recommend testing is limited to anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) and/or progesterone.
In addition, these companies are careful with how they label these testing kits – for instance, Modern Fertility says it doesn’t predict fertility and Proov doesn’t call its kit a fertility test at all.
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What Do At-Home Fertility Tests Measure?
Most at-home fertility tests measure:
Ovarian Reserve: This tells you how many eggs you currently have. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever produce, and naturally, this number decreases with age. Measuring anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and/or estradiol (E2) allows you to get an idea of your ovarian reserve and whether it’s low, normal, or high for your age. These hormones are likely associated with the time of menopause and are indicative of a response to traditional fertility treatments like IVF or freezing your eggs.
Progesterone: Progesterone is the hormone that prepares the uterine wall to receive a fertilized egg and nourish an embryo. It determines if you’re ovulating normally. Imbalances in progesterone levels often contribute to conception issues or miscarriages.
Other Hormones: You can also order fertility tests at home that measure a combination of hormones, such as luteinizing hormone (LH), FSH, testosterone and thyroid-stimulating hormone. These detect hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism. Significant research shows that thyroid dysfunction can impact fertility and pregnancy and can result in pregnancy loss and premature birth, while PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility.
Are At-Home Fertility Tests Accurate?
Experts have raised concerns that at-home fertility tests don’t offer a complete picture of fertility. Here’s why:
Ovarian Reserve: When it comes to ovarian reserve, the jury is still out on how well it predicts a women’s ability to get pregnant. A JAMA study analyzed the association between biomarkers of ovarian reserve and infertility among older women within reproductive age. The findings showed that women who had abnormal levels of AMH and FSH hormones were not significantly less likely to become pregnant than women with normal hormone levels. The study authors concluded that their findings did not support the use of urinary or blood FSH tests or AMH levels to assess natural fertility for women” without a history of infertility who have been trying to conceive for less than three months. Therefore, while knowing your AMH might give you an indication of how many eggs you have, it doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the eggs.
Progesterone: Measuring your progesterone levels isn’t necessary to know if you’re ovulating. Since someone who is having a regular menstruation cycle is almost certainly ovulating, added to that, progesterone levels fluctuate depending on the time of day – so ‘adequate progesterone levels are not conclusive.
Interpreting At-Home Fertility Test Results: Another concern is interpreting the at-home test results. While many companies offer access to professionals and encourage consumers to consult with healthcare providers, it is always best to talk to a provider in person when you receive your results. Interpretation of fertility tests is meticulous, and a bit of support is needed to help patients understand the full scope.
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How Can I Check If I Am Fertile?
Well, fertility is complicated. For women who know they’re infertile or a considering freezing their eggs, at-home fertility tests might be helpful since they provide an estimate on ovarian reserve, especially since they’re less expensive than going to the doctor for the same testing. However, these tests cannot predict how fertile you will be in the future; as discovered in the JAMA study, it’s entirely possible to have diminished ovarian reserve or imbalances in hormone levels and have no trouble conceiving.
The truth is the age of the female is the overwhelming predictor of a successful pregnancy. And while testing companies acknowledge that no test can predict future fertility, these fertility tests act as a stepping stone for further fertility discussions with a healthcare provider.
If you are considering taking a fertility test at home, it might be a good idea to check modern fertility reviews to find out which is the best home fertility test for you. Remember, it is always best to consult with an ob-gyn or reproductive endocrinologist if you are concerned about your ability to have children.