Let’s assume for a second that you’re a few years away from desiring pregnancy with all your heart. Perhaps you can potentially see a baby in your future but you need more time and still have questions. You might want to know how fertile you are, if you will have a fertility deadline at a certain point, or simply if you’re healthy enough to carry a baby one day. Maybe you're simply curious to know what your options will be when the time comes. These are all fair questions.
When you’re ready to try for a child, the market is brimming with products marketed to help you get pregnant faster. From BBT devices, to pee sticks and ovulation prediction apps, you will be presented with a variety of tools to track your cycle and maximize your chances of conceiving within your fertile window.
But what options are available when it comes to fertility testing? If you’re like us, your first instinct might be to turn to Google; “how can I check my fertility?” The top of your search results will most likely include fertility clinics or companies that market at-home fertility testing. While these options might seem like the surest way to find answers, we’re here to tell you the truth about fertility testing.
At-home fertility test
In recent years, at-home fertility tests have gained huge popularity becoming the go-to product for women who want to be proactive about their fertility, often while delaying motherhood.
If you are not familiar with them, at-home fertility tests usually require you to take a sample of your blood by picking your fingers and sending the sample via mail to a lab that will provide you digital results within a week or two.
The popularity of at home fertility tests has risen in tandem with the popularity of understanding hormones. While hormones are important and certainly relevant to fertility and conception, they are merely one piece in a much larger puzzle.
In previous articles, we discussed the limitations of ovarian reserve testing and why AMH and FSH don’t tell you the whole fertility story. In short, “fertility kits” provide insight into fertility-related hormones, an approach that is indirect, at best. In the majority of cases, fertility kits attempt to provide a glimpse into a woman’s ovarian reserve - aka how many eggs she has left. Such tests place importance on the quantity of eggs rather than the quality of eggs, which can not yet be measured and is increasingly considered the thing that matters most. They can also distract from the importance of a woman's overall health and wellness.
For example, you might have heard stories from friends who got pregnant with low ovary reserve or about others with perfect ovarian reserve who struggled with fertility for years.
It’s clear that fertility is a complex puzzle and before jumping into invasive tests or thinking about preserving fertility with egg freezing, it’s important to start from the beginning. Knowledge and proactive attitude.
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What it means to be proactive
Proactivity isn’t really a topic that belongs in the current fertility industry. There is a lot of discussion around the ways to prevent cancer, diabetes and other common diseases, but when it comes to fertility and reproduction in general, the approach is often reactive.
During our teens, we get a very brief and misguided education on sex and reproduction. We are told that intercourse during ovulation can lead to pregnancy, but we’re not fully educated on the 5 days of the fertile window or the intricacies and importance of a menstrual cycle. Shortly after being exposed to “sex education”, many of us are prescribed hormonal birth control. For a decade or more after, we never really learn how our fertility is tied to our overall health.
At Rita, we believe that proactivity starts with access to information - not just about fertility but about how reproductive health interplays with many other aspects of a woman’s life and health.
Studies demonstrate that women ask questions at a lower rate than men in various settings, citing reasons such as “I was worried I misunderstood the content” or “I couldn’t work up the nerve.” Women often worry more than men whether their questions are valid or if their needs and asks might inconvenience someone else.
If we want information, we need to ask for it! This is why we built our fertility digital assessment, to provide women with all the information they might need to make decisions about motherhood while also making other important decisions about their lifestyle, their relationships, and their careers.
Proactivity is not equal to egg freezing
We hope this doesn’t come as a surprise, but being proactive with your fertility doesn’t mean freezing your eggs if you don’t plan on having kids “early.” Freezing your eggs is like setting some bricks aside for a house you might build someday without understanding the quality of your bricks, the other materials you’ll need, the process of building, or the best time to build.
The procedure of egg-freezing is becoming an increasingly popular, but expensive, option for women who want to defer motherhood. But new research demonstrated caveats. The age a woman is when she freezes her eggs and the number of eggs she freezes makes a significant difference in whether she will have a baby. In a recent article from the New York Times titled, ‘Sobering’ Study Shows Challenges of Egg Freezing’, data from a fertility center presented a more grim picture than the fertility industry has painted around egg freezing, IUI, and IVF. Most women who tried to become pregnant, the study found, did not succeed, often because they had waited until they were too old to freeze eggs and had not frozen enough of them. The doctor interviewed by the journalist said ‘There’s not a baby in the freezer. There’s a chance to get pregnant’.
You can always freeze your eggs but your body and the body of your partner continues to age. When you put an embryo in later, your body will be the body of an older woman compared to the moment you freezed the ovocytes.
Some well-known age related complications are listed below:
Pregnancy Loss or stillbirth
Genetic Diseases in the child
Labor complications & death of the mother*
Higher rate of postpartum depression
Unsuccessful birth from oocytes preservation (egg freezing)
Multiple rounds/unsuccessful IVF
* US has the highest mothers’ mortality rate among developed countries
The new future of fertility
The majority of women don’t need fertility treatment and the bottom line is this: there is no single answer or '6-minute abs' style solution when it comes to your fertility health.
When it comes to improving or maintaining fertility health, there’s no better solution than taking proactive steps, on our own and with trusted doctors. What women need is to be supported with the right information so they can plan for their future reproductive experiences with more confidence and less fear. Rita’s focus on comprehensive analysis, education, and preventative actions brings power back to women.