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Can you test your fertility from the comfort of your own home? The answer is a bit complicated. Isn’t it always when it comes to fertility? Yes, there are some tests that both men and women can take at home to get a better idea about some aspects of their fertility. But are they an acceptable substitute for an individualized appointment with a fertility specialist? 

Unfortunately, no—while these tests are often fairly accurate, that’s not really the issue here, says Dr. Jaime Knopman, a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. It’s all the medical expertise you’re missing out on when you test your fertility at home. 

“The tests we run in our clinic are much more accurate because our job can’t be done completely by machine,” she explains. “It’s not just the tests, it’s the person interpreting them.”

But you still might not live close to a fertility clinic, have insurance that covers fertility appointments or testing, or even feel like you’re really at the point yet in your fertility journey where you need a formal eval from a specialist. We get that.

So whatever your reason for wanting to take an at-home fertility test, here’s what you need to know about what your options are, how they work, and what you can expect to learn.

How can I test my fertility at home: for women

When it comes to the ladies, there are two main varieties of tests you can do at home: you can check your ovarian reserve and you can do a broad panel screening for several different hormones that play a part in fertility health. Here’s the scoop.

Ovarian reserve tests measure the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in your blood with a pinprick. Typically, you collect a sample yourself and mail it back to the company so they can read and deliver your results. Very high levels of FSH can be a sign that you don’t have a lot of eggs, that they’re poor quality, or both, because your body is working overtime to produce enough FSH to release a healthy egg.

  • Taking this test feels like a typical finger prick. It hurts for a sec and then you’re over it. You will have to squeeze out some blood into designated spots on a testing card, though, so if you’re blood-averse be prepared.
  • The tests themselves can accurately check your FSH level, but there’s more than one way to figure out what your ovarian reserve looks like. Only measuring FSH will give you a piece of the puzzle...but could also cause you to unnecessarily panic about your fertility. Try not to do that! Remember, these tests are useful, but not foolproof.
  • FSH levels alone may not be a great way to assess your fertility in the first place. A 2017 JAMA study found that biomarkers like FSH aren’t the best predictors of future fertility in women with reduced versus normal ovarian reserves.

Fertility health screenings capture your FSH level but also a bunch of other hormones that impact your fertility in one way or another. The exact hormones measured in an OTC fertility test differ between companies, but you can usually find out your FSH level and any or all of the following:

  • thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH a marker of thyroid health)
  • estradiol (helps with ovulation)
  • anti-mullerian hormone, or AMH (an indicator of egg reserve)
  • prolactin (makes breast milk after birth)
  • luteinizing hormone, or LH (regulates your cycle, especially ovulation)
  • testosterone (helps make follicles, but too much may mess up your fertility)

These tests all work like the ovarian reserve test: you prick your finger, collect some blood samples, send the samples back to the company, and then wait for your results to come in. Usually, you’ll get factual data (like, “your TSH is off”) but also an explanation of what that might mean for your fertility. 

Most companies allow you to see your results online and consult with an on-staff medical professional if you have questions or don’t understand your results. They’re pretty easy to order online, but many aren’t cheap—they’re usually about $150—and you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

How can I test my fertility: for men

The only kind of male fertility test that can be done at home is a sperm analysis. About half of all couples’ infertility problems can be caused by male infertility, so knowing if your swimmers are strong or not is a good place to start if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while. 

There are actually several different kinds of sperm analysis kits; sometimes you collect a sample and send it through the mail for testing, sometimes you put some sperm on a slide and insert it into a testing device, and sometimes you can even use your smartphone (yes, for real!). 

  • Testing at home is private and confidential. You don’t have to worry about being unable to provide a sample at an unfamiliar clinic or doctor’s office
  • The kits you send off to labs via mail can be more accurate, but at the same time, there’s a lot that can go wrong here—like failure to keep the sperm stored at just the right temp, which can cause damage to the sample. At-home tests, while giving quicker results with no middle-man, have a lot of potential for both user and technology errors.
  • Male fertility is about more than just the amount of sperm: there’s motility, shape, concentration...the list goes on. If your at-home kit is only looking at the number of sperm, your results may not be that helpful. Try to choose a test that looks at more than one type of factor—this will give you the most bang for your buck. 

Don’t forget about ovulation!

While ovulation predictor kits only tell you if and when you’re ovulating, this can be very helpful if you’re actively TTC. 

These kits work by detecting the presence of LH in the urine, says David Diaz, MD, reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert. When your LH rises above a certain level, the test strip you’ve peed on will let you know that an ovary is just about to release an egg. This is a good time to get it on, since there’s a good chance that egg could become fertilized. 

According to Dr. Diaz, these tests are about 85 percent accurate and available as digital and non-digital tests. If you have fairly regular menstrual cycles, an ovulation predictor kit can be a useful tool in identifying exactly when your fertile window is, but if your cycles are irregular (because of PCOS, pre-menopause, or even just your personal biology), it can be harder to rely on them unless you’re taking a test every day.

Next steps

Okay, you took an at-home test and got your results what? Well, you might not like our answer, but here it is: you should probably still go see a fertility doctor. Yes, even if your results are “normal.” Why? 

Because, like we told you upfront, a test you do at home gives you important data — but not the expertise and counsel of a doctor who has met you in person and knows your medical history. You’ll have the info, just not necessarily the context...and the context is super important when it comes to your fertility. At-home tests simply can’t paint the same kind of comprehensive picture that doctor-interpreted lab tests can. 

But you’re here because you want to take an at-home fertility test...and TBH, we kinda don’t blame you! We’re curious, too! Just make sure you know what you’re buying, (Dr. Knopman says that you should make sure any OTC test you buy comes from a legit manufacturer with a fertility doctor on their medical review board), what the tests can tell you, and what you’re going to do with the results. 

“Even if you don’t want to do fertility treatments [right now], there is no harm in coming in to talk to us about it,” says Dr. Knopman. “You can make better decisions when you have that information than when you don’t…[and] the worst thing to do is sit at home and ruminate, trying to interpret your own results or diagnose yourself.”

What’s the takeaway here? After taking an at-home fertility test, you might want to plan to make an appointment with a fertility specialist. It can be a simple introductory or informational appointment, and even a virtual one. But hopefully, it will give you peace of mind and — most importantly — answers. 

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