There was a lot of news attention a few weeks back about a new at-home fertility test. I'm frequently asked for my opinion on such tests by both patients and the media.
While it's certainly understandable in this age of the Internet that empowered, educated patients want to take their health and wellness into their own hands, the distributors and manufacturers of DIY tests often fail to accurately inform consumers about their products' limitations. So I'm glad when people come forward to find out about the bigger picture.
In this case, the test claims to be "a breakthrough test for ovarian reserve" when in actuality, it's a collection of analyses that clinicians have used for many years now. I suppose the "breakthrough" aspect is that folks can use it at home. But should they?
Consumers need to weigh the cost-benefit ratio -- yes, even for health care. I know that I consider numerous aspects before making a substantial purchase, and I'm positive that my patients do, too.
Like other home tests, The Plan Ahead test claims to address two issues common to the topic of getting pregnant: privacy and cost.
It's true that performing a test "at home" is more private than a consultation in my office and a blood draw in the exam room. But in the case of this particular test, the consumer is still required to have their blood drawn by a participating physician. The cost benefit -- in this case, just under $400 -- of such a test is debatable.
There are so many more variables that add up to successful conception and pregnancy that home tests do not and cannot address. Ovarian reserve - a term that refers to a woman's egg supply -- is but one of numerous components that make someone fertile. Likewise, patients sometimes are unable to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy because of underlying health conditions that will not be detected by home testing.
So the cost of doing-it-yourself in this case could mean that you miss an important diagnosis of an undetected condition. DIY fertility diagnosis can also cost patients crucial time in their journey toward getting pregnant.
While I may sound biased, I think it just makes common sense to go ahead, make sure your bases are covered, and have a consultation with a specialist from the start.