Reproduction and Fertility is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_91928

Warning on self-test fertility kits

20 October 2009
Appeared in BioNews 531

Women have been warned against relying on 'over-the-counter' home fertility tests to gauge whether they can afford to delay starting a family. Scientists and doctors cautioned that such tests may provide false hope, encouraging women that they have several years of fertility left without looking at all the important factors.

Women are born with their complete supply of eggs for their lifetime contained within their ovaries. Over time this supply steadily diminishes, eventually leading to the menopause when the supply is exhausted. Home fertility tests, or 'ovarian reserve' tests, cost as little as £25 to £180 and use a blood or urine sample to estimate the number of eggs a woman has left by measuring her levels of a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). As the number of eggs falls, the level of FSH in the woman's blood rises, and so the information can be used to predict how many child-bearing years a woman might have left.

However, fertility experts are concerned as they feel these tests do not offer a complete picture. Such tests do not give any information about the quality of the eggs or other factors that may be crucial for fertility. Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist at the IVF unit at Hammersmith hospital, London, explained: 'The concern with over-the-counter tests is that although they are helpful, because they focus the mind on fertility, they can also give false reassurance. If the fallopian tubes are blocked or the partner doesn't have fabulous sperm, it may be giving you false hope'.

These concerns were raised after research presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, US, provided evidence that the same tests may be useful indicators of the likelihood of successful IVF when used in a clinical setting. A study at the Advanced Fertility Centre of Chicago used FSH tests in conjunction with ultrasound examinations that also estimate the size of a woman's egg reserve to predict the fertility of 1,380 women under the age of 35 who were undergoing IVF. IVF was successful in 59 per cent of women with normal results in both tests compared to 35 per cent of women with abnormal FSH levels and just 9 per cent of women who had abnormal results in both tests.

Ovarian reserve tests are routinely used in women over 35 years old considering IVF in the UK, and the new study indicates it may also be useful for younger women to help them decide whether to pursue the often costly procedure. Dr Todd Deutch, managing director of the Advanced Fertility Centre of Chicago, emphasised that this did not mean the tests were good indicators for women trying to conceive naturally. He said: 'I think relying on these tests to gauge fertility generally... is not a good extrapolation of this data. These tests don't tell the whole story'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Doctors warn against over-the-counter fertility tests for family planning
The Guardian |  20 October 2009
High Street fertility tests could give wrong results, experts warn
The Daily Telegraph |  20 October 2009
Home tests on biological clock 'could give women false hope'
The Times |  20 October 2009
Why home fertility tests fail to deliver
The Daily Mail |  20 October 2009
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
4 November 2013 - by Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown 
This week, almost eight years since home sperm-testing in the UK was first launched and made available in Boots, a second product to assess male fertility hit the shelves. Apart from the fact that the media seem to have forgotten the earlier ‘first’, what else has changed during this time?...
28 June 2010 - by Dr Gabrielle Samuel 
Women could soon find out how long they have left to start a family thanks to a blood test that determines when they will go through menopause....
11 June 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
Recent figures released by the UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), show a tenfold plus increase in women over 40 seeking fertility treatment using their own eggs. The number of women over 40 seeking fertility treatment using donated eggs is not know, but...
5 January 2006 - by BioNews 
Scientists at the UK's Birmingham University have developed a fertility test kit that can be bought over-the-counter at chemists and used by couples at home. The Fertell test, which will cost about £80, takes less than an hour to work and is said to give accurate results in nearly all...
9 July 2001 - by BioNews 
Doctors and scientists from the University of Birmingham and Genosis, a medical devices company in the UK, have developed a 'fertility test kit' that can be used - both by men and women - at home. The kit is called 'Fertell' and is designed to measure fertility levels in couples trying to...
12 July 1999 - by BioNews 
A fertility test that measures the viability of eggs in a woman's ovaries may soon give women the ability to tell the time on the proverbial biological clock. The test is the result of six years of work by Oxford scientists who discovered that levels of the hormone, inhibin B...
HAVE YOUR SAY
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.