At-Home Fertility Tests and Treatments: Understanding the Pros and Cons
When you think of any sort of preconception or fertility treatment, such as hormone testing or in vitro fertilization (IVF), chances are you envision going into either your OB-GYN's office or a fertility clinic and encountering lots of doctors and a slew of needles. But just as services like grocery delivery and transportation are becoming increasingly app-based and tech-savvy, so too are fertility tests and treatments.
As the industry strives to increase access and convenience for patients with at-home options, it's important to remember that there's no one-size-fits-all in fertility treatments, says Chantae Sullivan-Pyke, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Kofinas Fertility Group in New York City. Therefore you'll do well to consult a health care provider about whether an at-home treatment, test, or tracking system is right for you.
So just how much can (and should) really be DIY when it comes to bettering your odds of getting pregnant? We took a look at three of the latest at-home fertility products and services that aim to allow you to take matters of your fertility into your own hands—and home—to weigh the pros and cons.
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At-Home IVF Kits
New Hope Fertility in New York City has an exclusive service called At-Home IVF, which is meant to cut out the stressful commute to and from a doctor's office. The kit includes an instruction card, color-coded individual packets with oral and vaginal medications that are numbered by day, a nasal spray which is used on days 12 and 13, and an ovulation testing kit with test strips. Day 14 is the only day that isn't "at-home," as it's when a patient will go into the clinic for egg retrieval.
The pros: "There is no need to go the the physician's office for monitoring, for bloodwork, or for ultrasounds," says Zaher Merhi, MD, FACOG, the director of IVF research and development in IVF technologies at New York's New Hope Fertility Clinic. "The woman will only go to the office on the day of the procedure, the egg retrieval. This translates into a tremendous advantage for the woman. She will have much less stress, no concerns about making and keeping appointments at the doctor's office, for women who already have a child there is no need to get a babysitter, and no worries about losing time from work."
The cons: A high chance of human error. Dr. Merhi has acknowledged previously it's a possibility, but the clinic has a built-in contingency plan. "Of course, the patient needs to be hyper-vigilant and very motivated to adhere to the correct protocols," he told the New York Post. If an error occurs during the process, the clinic might offer a discount on future treatment and future monitoring would be done in the office versus at home.
The cost: The At-Home IVF kit costs $850. But compared to the cost of conventional IVF at New Hope Fertility which totals approximately $4,000 according to Dr. Merhi, trying the DIY method means a savings of $3,200.
At-Home Hormone Testing
New Hope isn't the only business selling more convenient, in-home kits. Modern Fertility is a hormonal testing kit that allows you to gain insight into the hormones that effect fertility with a finger prick. The blood sample is collected at home, then the test is shipped back to the company. They then provide customers with a report analyzing their hormone levels.
The pros: Knowledge is power. "I actually tried Modern Fertility at 38, a few months before getting married, and it was a 'fertility saver,'" says Ann Murray-Dunning, 40, an expectant mom from San Francisco. "I didn't realize how low my AMH was for my age (.6), and that this meant that my egg reserve was very low for my age. Due to this new knowledge, I sped up the timeline, if you will, and we turned to the pregnancy journey soon after. After some difficulties likely given my low AMH, I am now 18 weeks naturally pregnant with a healthy girl."
Murray-Dunning says she's so confident that all women should do tests like Modern Fertility that she bought a kit for her younger sister. "I talk to her about my challenges and suggested she do what I did earlier—test early, so that she has the power of more time and planning," she notes.
The cons: Due to the nature of their profession, doctors are natural skeptics of any at-home hormone testing. "There are a number of at-home hormone tests. Some are reliable and some are not, but all should be confirmed and interpreted with a medical provider if someone is concerned about an underlying medical condition or if someone is struggling with fertility," says Emily Jungheim, MD, MSCI, a board certified reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert at the Women & Infants Center in St. Louis, Missouri. "That's why we recommend using at-home hormone tests in conjunction with your doctor's care rather than in lieu of it."
The cost: Modern Fertility costs $159. Similar tests include EverlyWell (which costs $159 and looks at the hormones that influence normal ovarian function) and Proov (which costs $39.99 and zeros in on the ebb and flow of your progesterone levels).
DIY Conception Aids
Before trying intrauterine insemination (IUI), people hoping to conceive might be drawn to at-home conception aids. Take The Mosie Kit, an insemination syringe kit that was designed for women by women for home insemination and is geared to helping couples with unexplained infertility, the LGBTQ community, women suffering from vaginismus, endometriosis and tilted uterus, male factor issues (low motility, sperm count, and performance anxiety), as well as single mothers by choice.
The pros: "You can do almost anything from home nowadays with DIY kits, and the same goes with slinging sperm," says Aimee D. Eyvazzadeh, MD, MPH. "There are a lot of times when doing this is helpful, but the most helpful is when sex hurts. Then, you can take it into your own hands! I help about four to five patients a year get pregnant in this way, and The Mosie is actually something I've been doing with my patients for over 10 years! And it works."
The cons: A potential lack of information or misinformation. Dr. Eyvazzadeh says The Mosie works even better when patients are shown how to do it by their health care provider so they aren't "missing anything big picture."
Sheeva Talebian, MD, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility New York, agrees, emphasizing that couples who are turning to these aids because they're struggling with fertility concerns should work with a physician who can provide a comprehensive fertility evaluation. If male factor issues (determined by a semen analysis) are at play, an in-office intrauterine insemination (IUI) may be more effective than an at-home device, she says.
Dr. Eyvazzadeh is also concerned about false claims that other products (like one called The Stork OTC) advertise in regard to "higher pregnancy rates than are truly possible."
"To tell someone that it really increases their chances isn't fair or telling them the truth," Dr. Eyvazzadeh notes. "At-home inseminations aren't as successful as they describe on their website. I wish!"
The cost: The Mosie's two-pack insemination syringe kit costs $89.