Seven Common Myths About At-Home Fertility Tests
The fertility tracking and conception market is flooded with testing options. Now, you can buy an at-home fertility test kit that can predict your fertile period or a kit that can assess your partner’s sperm count.
However, there are several misconceptions regarding the use of these test kits. This post will look at common myths about at-home fertility tests and debunk them.
Myth No. 1: Commercial At-Home Fertility Tests Are 99% Accurate
Fact: Many manufacturers claim that their tests have a high accuracy rate. Although, laboratory studies may have shown that these tests are ≥ 99% accurate, the accuracy rate may not be the same in real-life settings.
In real-life situations, some users don’t perform the test as instructed by the manufacturer, making the test not as accurate or as reliable as it was intended, promised, or needed to be.
Additionally, there may be cases where a woman’s hormone levels fall outside of normal ranges, and ovulation tests, for example, depend on a specific hormone. In such cases, the woman would have less accurate results.
Myth No 2: If You Use Different At-Home Fertility Tests, You’ll Get the Same Quality of Information That You Would Get If the Tests Were Performed at a Fertility Center or Clinic
Fact: While there’re different types of at-home fertility testing options, there’s no guarantee that you would be able to determine why you’re not getting pregnant even if you take a variety of these tests.
Let’s look at what you can get with different at-home fertility tests, including the benefits and disadvantages of using them.
Here are three common at-home fertility tests that couples usually turn to when they’re struggling to get pregnant.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs)
These kits can help women with regular cycles to understand their cycles, including when they’ll most likely ovulate. It is also beneficial for women who have difficulties tracking their fertility using traditional fertility tracking methods such as basal body temperature charting and cervical mucus monitoring.
However, women with irregular cycles might not really benefit from using these tests, as they are more likely to get unreliable results.
Fertility tracking devices such the OvaCue Fertility Monitor may be a better alternative for women with irregular cycles or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Contrary to other fertility monitors, OvaCue does not predict ovulation based on the attainment of a predetermined hormone level (luteinizing hormone, estrogen, or both) prior to ovulation.
Nevertheless, if you have an underlying condition that may be preventing you from conceiving, this monitor will not be able to detect it.
At-Home Ovarian Reserve Tests
At-home ovarian reserve tests are designed to provide information about a woman’s egg quantity by assessing the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level in her blood.
When the FSH levels are high, this may indicate a loss of ovarian function or ovarian failure. It is also high in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
However, these tests may give false results and even if you do have high FSH levels, this may not help you understand what is wrong with your eggs.
At-Home Sperm Tests
At-home sperm tests measure sperm count; however, sperm count is only one factor in a man’s fertility. These tests do not provide information on other parameters such as sperm motility or movement and sperm morphology. Therefore, several causes of male infertility can be missed by at-home sperm tests.
For example, if your partner has a normal sperm count on a home sperm test, this doesn’t indicate whether he is fertile or not. If his sperm motility is poor, his little swimmers may not be able to swim across your uterus and into your fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg.
A typical semen analysis, performed at a laboratory, measures the following:
- Semen volume
- Sperm count
- Sperm concentration
- Sperm motility
- Viscosity (sperm consistency)
- Proportion of normal and abnormal sperm in terms of size and shape
- White blood cell count (a high number can indicate an infection)
- Number of immature sperm cells
Note that even if a man performs an at-home sperm test and shows the results to his doctor because he is concerned about his fertility, his doctor would still have to repeat the test. This is because at-home sperm tests don’t provide enough clinical evidence for a doctor to draw relevant conclusions.
Myth No. 3: All At-Home Fertility Tests Have Been Reviewed and Approved by Authorized Bodies
Fact: Home fertility tests sold at local drug stores have most likely been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, if you buy the test abroad or from a shady online store, there’s no guarantee that the item you’ve purchased has been tested.
Some manufacturers do conduct clinical trials to assess the efficacy of their products. For example, Ava Science, Inc. has conducted clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of Ava’s multi-parameter fertility tracking algorithm.
However, not all manufacturers have conducted evidenced-based studies to demonstrate the reliability of their tests.
Myth No. 4: Older Women Who Are Trying to Conceive Should Absolutely Use an At-Home Fertility Test to Maximize Their Chances
Fact: If you’re 35 or older and are trying to conceive, you may be tempted to believe that you can maximize your chances of conceiving faster by using an at-home fertility test. However, it is advisable that you see a fertility specialist if you’ve been trying for six months without success.
A woman’s egg quality decreases as she ages, with the rate declining more rapidly after age 35.
Therefore, if you’re 35 or older, you don’t want waste too much time using these tests when you have the option of visiting a fertility specialist and improving your chances at getting a positive outcome.
Myth No. 5: You’ll Save Money by Using an At-Home Fertility Test
Fact: If you don’t have an underlying condition that may be preventing you from getting pregnant, at-home test kits may help you determine your fertile window, and consequently, help you get pregnant faster. However, if you have an underlying condition affecting your fertility, you may be spending more money on these tests than you would spend for a routine fertility workup. Although some at-home fertility tests are more or less affordable, the cost may add up if you have to buy fertility test sticks during each cycle.
Most insurance companies have plans that cover you for consultation and treatment. So, you can actually save money by seeing a fertility specialists and getting answers to your fertility issues.
Myth No. 6: At-Home Fertility Tests Can Provide Early Information on Your Fertility and, Consequently, Prevent Frustration
Fact: While home fertility kits can give you a head start, it can become frustrating if the so-much desired pregnancy isn’t happening. It is not uncommon for couples using these kits to complain that scheduled sex is not enjoyable and sometimes feels like a chore.
Some manufacturers of ovulation predictor kits claim that their tests can predict six fertile days in a woman’s cycle.
Therefore, knowing your most fertile period can help you determine when you’re most likely to conceive.
For couples who find scheduled sex to be a problem, some gynecologists advise having sex every other day when the woman is approaching ovulation.
Myth No. 7: At-Home Fertility Tests Work for All Women Trying to Get Pregnant
Fact: At-home test kits such as ovulation tests and fertility monitors work by measuring an absolute amount of luteinizing hormone or estrogen. Therefore, these tests will not work for women with irregular cycles or hormonal imbalances.
These tests work well in women with regular cycles and are beneficial when they’re just starting out in their efforts to get pregnant.
However, women < 35 years should seek professional help if they’ve not been able to get pregnant after one year of trying. Older women should seek help after six months of trying.
Why You Should Consider Seeing A Fertility Specialist
In another one-third of the cases, it is due to male factors. In the remaining cases, it may be due to male or female factors or due to unknown causes.
At-home fertility tests cannot help you determine whether infertility is due to a male or female factor, both factors, or unknown causes.
A fertility specialist will perform an infertility evaluation to determine whether you and your partner are experiencing male-factor infertility, female-factor infertility, or both.
In most cases where the cause is found, treatment may be possible. Infertility may also be treated in cases where the cause is not found.
During your first visit with a fertility specialist, your doctor will need to take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also ask you and your partner questions about your medical health and sexual history.
Your fertility specialists will also perform laboratory tests and/or imaging studies. If you have any concerns, you should not hesitate to discuss them with your doctor.