A new study conducted by researchers from Penn Medicine found that consumers who opt for at-home fertility tests, commonly known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests, aren’t always getting the most accurate readings. As a result, the researchers say users could receive mixed results about their fertility status.
“Consumers continue to desire these tests, and they’re attractive, but they don’t deliver on their promise,” said researcher Moira Kyweluk, PhD. “I view DTC testing as an entry point into what I term the ‘new (in)fertility pipeline’ for women today. Because it is low cost and widely available, it’s reaching a larger demographic, people of diverse identities and backgrounds, and raising awareness of more advanced procedures and technologies like egg freezing.”
What to expect from DTC tests
To better understand how DTC fertility works, the researchers followed 21 women through the process from start to finish.
The most important part of testing fertility is analyzing a blood sample. Because many women are drawn to DTC tests because of the convenience factor, a number of the participants took their own blood samples at home and sent them in to be tested. Others went to labs and had their blood drawn.
While the lower cost and the simplicity of DTC tests make it a real, affordable option for many consumers, the researchers found that the results aren’t always as clear cut as many women may think.
The study revealed that though these tests seem like a viable solution, the results yielded from them aren’t always accurate and can create more confusion for those trying to be proactive about family planning.
As these tests grow in popularity, the researchers hope that these findings spur future studies that can help women better understand their options.
“Though there may be some benefits to consumers using DTC fertility testing, across the board participants were left with incorrect assumptions about the power of hormone testing to predict fertility,” said Kyweluk. “No test or medical procedure guarantees future fertility -- including egg-freezing -- and these startups directly target women who are concerned about their reproductive futures.”
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