While at-home fertility tests seem like a cost-effective and timesaving way to take the guesswork out of trying to get pregnant, do they actually work? SIRM-NY’s Cary Dicken, MD, weighs in on the pros and the pitfalls of trying to conceive with convenience. Read on to see if at-home fertility tests are right for you.
Ovulation Predictor Kits and Fertility Monitors
- First Response™ Daily Digital Ovulation Test
- Clearblue Fertility Monitor
Pros: Home ovulation kits and fertility monitors are non-invasive methods that can help couples hone in on their prime fertile days. Simple ovulation kits (i.e. Yes/No) detect the LH (luteinizing hormone) surge that occurs 24-36hr prior to ovulation. The more advanced fertility monitors tend to be more expensive, but provide a bit more information by detecting the rise in estrogen that occurs for a few days before the LH surge. These kits usually indicate the estrogen rise as “high” and the LH surge as “peak.”
The vast majority of ovulation predictor kits and fertility monitors use urine to detect a woman’s natural cyclical hormonal changes. Fertile-Focus is different, it uses saliva to monitor changes in estrogen. It also requires a woman to visually detect changes in her saliva’s appearance to know when she’s likely to surge.
Pitfalls: Ovulation kits and fertility monitors are not perfect and may not detect estrogen rise or an LH surge accurately. The inability to detect the LH surge in a woman who has a regular menstrual cycle does not indicate a failure to ovulate. Additionally, ovulation kits can give false positive results for a variety of reasons. Many women also have difficulty determining if an ovulation kit is truly positive and often misinterpret their results.
Are they for you? Ovulation kits work best for women with regular, predictable menstrual cycles. For woman using fertility treatment, please check with your provider before using an ovulation kit as some fertility drugs may lead to false positive results.
Fertility Tracking Apps
Pros: Apps help most women track their cycles and determine their average cycle length. Most apps will indicate a woman’s “fertile” days to help couples properly time intercourse in hopes of achieving pregnancy.
Pitfalls: Apps work very well for women who have relatively regular menstrual cycles, but may not be accurate for women with irregular periods.
Are they for you? There is no downside to using an app. All women benefit from tracking their cycles and learning about their average cycle length. I would just caution women with irregular menstrual cycles that the predicted “fertile window” may not be reliable.
Semen Analysis Tests
- Fertility Home Sperm Test
Pros: They are certainly convenient as a “do it yourself” test with the benefit of allowing men to test in the privacy of their home. These home tests can be beneficial as an initial screening test, but are not a substitute for a formal semen analysis.
Pitfalls: The results only provide information on sperm concentration, not their appearance and motility, which are also quite important.
Are they for you? All men, with the exception of those who have had a vasectomy, can use these tests.
- ZRT Single Panel Hormone Imbalance Home Test Kit
- PH Test Kits for Saliva and Urine
Pros: Home hormone kits allow patients to collect blood and/or urine specimens at home and mail them to the ZRT laboratory. It can help alleviate the number of visits to a doctor’s office or laboratory.
Pitfalls: Only doctors registered with ZRT can order the required home tests. ZRT does not accept all insurance plans. ZRT is also limited in the tests it can run and does not include everything a fertility doctor would want to check.
Are they for you? This home testing option has limited benefit. It’s really only ideal for a patient that is not concerned about pricking their finger with a lancet to test their own blood. Additionally, it is only suitable for patients whose doctors have registered with ZRT and for patients willing to pay out of pocket if their insurance does not cover such at-home testing.
While at-home fertility tests can provide useful information, it’s important to note that there may be a pre-existing condition that they have no way of recognizing. For those who have been trying for more than 6 months, we recommend setting up a fertility checkup as soon as possible. To chat with one of our experts or to schedule your appointment, call 646-655-4344 or fill out this form, and we will contact you shortly.