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At-home fertility tests are gaining popularity, and they are a great innovation for those interested in their fertility health. But are they accurate? Should you rely on them for your fertility journey? Read on to find out more about these tests, their accuracy, the risks, and the next steps to take after finding your results.
So are at-home fertility tests accurate? The answer is yes, but with limitations. These tests check for specific markers and return results with fairly good accuracy for what they’re testing for. That being said, these tests are limited. One test alone cannot tell you your fertility status, and stacking up different tests will be an expensive endeavor that still won’t paint a comprehensive picture of your reproductive health.
But even if used appropriately and according to the instructions on the test, at-home tests can still vary in reliability. Many tests claim to be 99% accurate, but that statistic comes from lab-controlled settings that are often difficult to replicate at home. Everyone’s fertility markers are unique, and these slight differences could cause accuracy problems with at-home tests. So depending on the test, it may be very reliable, but only for certain people – and this accuracy drops even further if you’re not using the test correctly.
For tests that you send to a lab, consider using FDA-approved tests that use Clinical Laboratory Improvements Amendments (CLIA) laboratories and are interpreted by a healthcare provider. These are usually considered the most reliable.
There are many at-home fertility tests available that test for a variety of fertility factors. These at-home tests can help you learn more about your fertility, or direct you to seek out more information from your healthcare provider. At-home test accuracy can vary, depending on certain medical conditions or when you are using them. Three of the most-used fertility tests for home use include ovulation predictor kits, ovarian reserve tests, and sperm tests.
These can be useful for women who have regular cycles and are looking for alternatives to taking daily basal body temperature and monitoring cervical mucus. Ovulation predictor kits aren’t useful for everyone, however. If you’re having irregular cycles, your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), the fertility hormone these tests are designed to detect, could be outside of the normal ranges, making this test potentially unreliable.
At-home ovarian reserve tests assess the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level in your bloodstream. Large amounts of this hormone can indicate that your ovaries are working extra hard, suggesting that you have fewer viable eggs remaining. However, these at-home readings don’t provide sufficient information to understand what’s really happening with your eggs and can even be false, causing unnecessary worry or giving false hope.
There are three important facets of the sperm that are measured when checking fertility health: movement (motility), shape (morphology), and count. At-home sperm tests only tell you whether the sperm count is in the low, medium, or high range while providing no information about sperm quality. Because this test provides such limited information, the at-home version of a semen analysis doesn’t provide any actionable facts regarding male fertility.
At-home fertility testing poses no health risk to the user, but there can be other risks tied to the process. The first is cost. Some may think that at-home tests will be cheaper than going to a fertility clinic, but the tests can start to add up if you’re combining different tests or trying multiple times. With at-home tests from well-known brands ranging from $150-$400, those numbers can really start to add up. On top of that, your next steps would be to discuss further with a fertility specialist and start treatments. Money can be saved by starting off your fertility health evaluation at a fertility center and cutting out the extra steps and costs.
The other risks are time and emotions. If you have extra time and are taking at-home fertility tests out of curiosity, there is no issue with that! But if you have been trying to conceive without success and have concerns about your reproductive health, taking at-home tests can slow down the time between you actually getting fertility help. These wait times can add stress, which certainly doesn’t improve fertility health. Waiting for and receiving results can also be emotionally draining as you anticipate the outcome, whereas seeing a fertility specialist will get your results quickly and more comprehensively – along with a hand to hold to help understand the results.
Though limited, these tests can be seen as a starting-off point to get a general idea of fertility health that you can then bring in to discuss further with your fertility doctor. If you are unsure about how to interpret the results of your at-home test, speaking to your healthcare provider can help. It’s important to remember that at-home fertility tests should be thought of as a supplement to more in-depth tests from your healthcare provider and not a replacement. For more comprehensive information about your fertility, it’s best to visit your healthcare provider.
At Red Rock Fertility Center, we’re happy to help you on your fertility journey. If you’re coming in with at-home fertility test results or are starting off from scratch, we will guide you along the process and work to provide the most comprehensive fertility test results and treatment plans to help you get on your way to starting your family. Make an appointment today to start speaking to a fertility specialist!