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My Beef With the New At-Home First Response FSH Levels Test

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Updated June 04, 2014

First Response, a company best known for their ovulation predictor kits and pregnancy tests, is coming out with an at-home fertility test. According to the article I read at the New York Times online, this new test will measure your levels of FSH hormone, and let you know if the levels are too high. (High FSH levels are one possible indicator of age related infertility.)

I suppose at-home fertility tests are the logical next step for a company that already makes tests to help predict ovulation and tests for pregnancy. And on the surface, the idea sounds enticing. Especially if the at-home test meant you didn’t need to see a fertility specialist or your gynecologist. Who wants to make those appointments anyway, right?

Except there’s one big problem -- taking this at-home fertility test won’t keep you from needing to go in to see the doctor. In fact, getting a normal result on this test won’t even tell you whether or not you’re infertile. Why?

Because high FSH levels are only one of many possible indicators of infertility. Because you can have normal FSH levels, and still deal with age related infertility. Because age related infertility is only one potential cause of infertility. Because this test completely ignores other causes of infertility like PCOS, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, other causes of anovulation, and male infertility.

Case in point, my FSH levels are completely normal. But I’m still infertile. If I also bought their ovulation kits, I might think I ovulate every month, too. Except, I don’t. (An ovulation predictor kit can’t tell you if you ovulated, only if you might do so soon, maybe.) If I didn’t know any better, their tests would do nothing but give me a false sense of hope.

There are some good points. I like the idea that infertility will be out there in front of people. The news article mentioned that TV spots will advertise the new product, and I like the idea of more people knowing that fertility isn’t a given. Fertility education is desperately needed. I also like the idea of giving women more information with which to consult their doctors with.

That said, I don’t think this product is a good way to get those results. I’m concerned that women will buy the test, get a normal result, and then put off seeing a doctor. And while the instructions with the test do tell women that they should still see a doctor even if the results are normal, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

The box is even being marketed to offer a false sense of hope. In capital letters, the box says, “Are You Able to Get Pregnant?” Of course, there is a little asterisk, with fine print warning consumers that FSH levels are only one kind of fertility measure.

But who really pays attention to the fine print?

The test won’t even save you any money. If you have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or more than six months, if you’re over age 35), and the test is normal, you still need to see the doctor. You and your partner will still need to have other fertility tests.

If the First Response FSH Test gives you an abnormal result, you’ll also still need to see the doctor.

Will the test save you money? Nope. You’ll still end up paying the co-pay at your doctor’s office.

Will the test really tell you if you are able to get pregnant, like the copy on the box suggests? Nope.

If you take the test today, and it’s normal, does that mean you absolutely have another year before you need to worry about age related infertility? Nope.

My thoughts, as harsh as this may sound? This test plays off the emotions and anxieties of couples trying to get pregnant, and wondering whether or not their biological clock is about to stop ticking. It plays off these emotions without any promises or reassurances, and in the end, is a waste of $25.

What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comment section below. I want to hear from you!

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