Test Is First at-Home Dual Kit for Measuring Fertility
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Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
June 5, 2007 - It takes two to make a baby, and now the first completely at-home fertility test for men and women can help couples better understand their chances of conceiving before they see a doctor.
The dual test kit allows men to assess the quality of their semen from the comfort of their home in as little as 80 minutes, while the female test measures levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), a key predictor of fertility in women.
Approved by the FDA and now being sold over-the-counter, the Fertell test is not as comprehensive as most infertility evaluations done in the medical setting.
But it can give couples an early warning that something is wrong, University of California, San Francisco men's health specialist Paul J. Turek, MD, tells WebMD.
Turek is on the advisory board of Genosis Inc., the Massachusetts-based company that distributes the dual test.
"This test is a good first step, and it is something men will actually do," he says. "Women are very proactive about their fertility and their health, but men almost never seek [infertility] testing on their own."
Test Appears Highly Accurate
The test has been commercially available in the United Kingdom for more than a year, and the company says its testing shows it to be 95% as accurate as standard laboratory testing.
But south Florida-based infertility specialist Steven J. Ory, MD, says the test's accuracy in the clinical setting will not be known until it has been on the market longer.
Ory is president of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
"The privacy aspect makes the idea of home testing very appealing to many people, so this test could be important if it ends up having the predictive value that the company claims," he tells WebMD. "But often when these tests come out, limited testing makes them look more impressive than they turn out to be."
The male version of the test involves an evaluation of a semen sample to determine sperm motility, or movement, by mimicking environmental conditions of the female's body as the sperm travels to the egg.
Poor motility is a major cause of male infertility, which contributes to a couple's inability to conceive, according to figures from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
Much like a home pregnancy test, the female infertility test involves a urine stick. But it is used at a specific time -- on the third day of a woman's menstrual cycle -- to get the best reading of FSH levels. FSH is a key indicator of ovarian reserve or egg quality.
The "his" and "her" test kit sells for about $100 and is available at CVS and Longs pharmacies, according to a company news release.
Test Can Reduce Stress
Since FSH is not the only measure of a woman's fertility potential and sperm motility is not the only measure of a man's, a negative test does not mean that a couple will be able to conceive.
But it can help couples feel more in control of their fertility by answering basic questions, Turek says.
"A negative test can reduce a couple's stress, whether they have been trying to conceive for six months, nine months, or a year," he says. "It is hard to overestimate the potential impact of stress on fertility."
SOURCES: News release, Genosis Inc. Paul J. Turek, MD, professor in residence, department of urology and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, University of California, San Francisco. Steven Ory, MD, president, American Society for Reproductive Medicine; reproductive endocrinologist, IVF Florida Reproductive Associations, South Florida. NCHS FASTATS, Fertility/Infertility.
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