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Should fertility testing become routine?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2023 | Assisted Reproduction

Medical experts say infertility exists when couples cannot get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex if the woman is under 35 or within six months for those older than 35. Several studies indicate those conditions apply to roughly 15% of heterosexual couples trying to conceive.

According to fertility specialists, most of those affected haven’t given much thought to infertility until experiencing it themselves. That has some saying that fertility testing should be part of routine medical examinations every few years. But not all experts agree.

The argument for routine testing

Those who support these tests before individuals or couples want to have children say they will be better prepared when they try to conceive and make informed decisions on the possible use of assisted reproductive technology (ART). The most common methods are in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). The fact is that many women who defer having children until later in life are simply unaware of the effect age has on their fertility.

Experts say blood tests that could become commonplace include those used now for women experiencing fertility issues, measuring hormone levels to assess the number of eggs left in the ovaries. Some of these tests are available through at-home kits requiring a finger prick. Experts say ovarian-reserve tests are fairly easy to do. Other supporters say routine testing could also identify underlying health issues, such as endometriosis, which can affect fertility.

The argument against

But other fertility experts aren’t on board. They say routine testing is invasive and expensive, giving patients little usable information for family planning purposes. Some are concerned that the tests themselves are not always accurate. They say that even utilizing the best medical knowledge available, getting pregnant requires several factors to align at the same time.

They say no test is out there that can accurately predict whether fertility issues will likely happen for most people. While men can have their sperm quality and count analyzed relatively accurately, that’s not the case for identifying potential red flags for women. They warn against relying on results of at-home testing as each women’s complete medical history must be considered when assessing potential fertility issues.

What’s the bottom line?

That’s up to you. Experts on both sides of this debate say routine testing to assess fertility may make sense for those with a history of cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, autoimmune disorders or other medical conditions. These tests could be crucial in deciding whether to freeze eggs or consider fertility treatments. They also agree that if you do use at-home fertility tests, don’t try to analyze the results without consulting a fertility specialist.