Thursday, January 13, 2011

Adventures in Home Fertility Testing!

As requested yesterday my Mic, here is a full review of the First Response Fertility Test for Women!

First let me state the only reason I performed this experiment is because I had the test laying around and I was suffering from POS (peeing on a stick) withdrawal. After spending 18 months peeing on pregnancy tests and ovulation sticks it was weird to suddenly... not be doing that! And I'm a science geek.. so I'm always up for a good experiment!

Let me just give you a little background on myself. I have borderline high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). In Janurary of 2009 when I finally made it to the fertility specialist they of course ran a slew of tests on me. What came back was that my FSH was eleveated at 11.7. Thats not extremely high, but considering my age as well as my low antral follicle count it was a slight concern for my doctor.

But I guess I am getting ahead of myself here. Why do we care about FSH? ready for a small biology lesson? FSH initiates follicle growth! Those antral (aka small) follicles are rescued from cell death by FSH. Your FSH peaks on day 3 (hence why whe you go to a fertility specialist they always insist on that lovely day 3 testing. Its when your hormones do all those wonderful thigns to prepare your body for ovulation!).. Cause and effect! Normally all those small antral follicles will produce enough of a hormone called Inhibin B that will lower the FSH levels after this peak. Once a follicle matures is scretres estradoil which will cause an LH surge (this is what is measured by those lovely ovulation predictor kits!). In the second half of your period (the luteal phase) there is a transition of what hormones are playing a major role in your body. The levels of progesterone and estrogene decrease and therefore the FSH slowly increases... and then the whole cycle will start again after ovulation. Confused yet?

So why is high FSH bad? Well, high FSH is a sign of Menopause and poor ovarian reserve, both of which will affect your fertility. This is why FSH is considered one of the key tests of a woman's fertility. In other words if your FSH is high it means your body is trying to compensate for an absence of follicle response. But how high is too high? That honestly depends on what test is run. Like any diagnostic testing, the range is dependent upon the specific test kit that was used. Typically however anything under 10 is considered great and anything over 15 is considered bad. That middle area is a gray zone which varies from test to test.

Now, on to the fun part... the actual test! I read the directions last night becuase I knew there was no way I would remember them at 6am this morning. Unlike pregnancy and ovulation kits which tell you your result in a matter of minutes the fertility test requires you to wait a whopping 30 minutes before reading! It is also very clear that you should use it on the 3rd day of bleeding (remember that FSH surge should occur today!) and to make sure that you use first morning urine (or at least haven't peed in the last 4 hours). I have to say the test itself looks almost identical to their pregnancy test... in fact if it didn't say "fertility test for women" on the actual stick I would have thought it was a pregnancy test! Even that little pink control line looks the same!

So I peed on the stick and then went off to get myself ready for work. I showed, ate breakfast, fed the cats, and made my lunch. On a side note it was odd to pee on a stick and not feel tugs of anxiety as I waited for that second line to appear!

So, result time! According to the instructions if your FSH levels are normal then you should either see no second line or a second line that is lighter then the control line. If your FSH levels are abnormal you will see a line that is as dark or darker then the control line. My result?

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If you're staring at that going "well... it may be darker... or maybe the same color... but i'm not sure" then you've got the same result as me!  Yes, I honestly can not tell if the line is darker or not. I held it up to the light, I tried looking at it from different angles, and each time I seemed to think either yes or no on the darker than answer. Personally if I hadn't already had my FSH tested this test would have been close enough to a "high" result to make me seek a doctor for bloodwork.

Overall my opinion? Don't waste your money. This test only tests your FSH levels which is just a very small part of the big picture of fertility. There are many other hormones that need to be tested as well as other diagnostic tests that need to be performed and this doesn't even take into account male fertility. The directions on the test say "if this comes up negative keep trying before seeing a doctor". You could be trying and then come to find out you have PCOS or a blocked tube and because a little stick said to keep trying you did!

Personally I feel that if you are concerned about your fertility for any reason you should speak up to your doctor. I know a lot of women are intimidated by the whole "you should wait a year" and honestly a lot of doctors brush off patients concerns. However if you've ever had "strange" cycles or "something seems off" keep trying until you find a doctor who will listen. I had doctor after doctor brush aside my concerns with a simple "you're young". I was told over and over again that I shouldn't worry even though I had a history of abnormal periods. And don't go to an OB/GYN... go to a fertility specialist. I had OB/GYN run hormone tests on me on the WRONG day of my cycle. It doesn't do any good to test your FSH levels on day 13!

I recommend that every women should read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. This book is wonderful even if you have no intention of getting pregnant! It will explain to you how your body works and what all those hormones do. I, a biology major in college, learned a lot that I didn't know while reading this book!

So, in a nutshell, don't waste your money. If however you buy a box of first response pregnancy tests and you get a free fertility test then what the hell, give it a whirl! If nothing else you'll have fun squinting at the lines trying to decipher your result!

9 comments:

  1. I highly recommend that book too! I don't think the one I read was the "10th Anniversary Edition", but I'm sure it has most of the same information. I'm not trying to get pregnant, but I do have PCOS, and I have found what I learned from reading that book to be EXTREMELY helpful in understanding and monitoring what's going on in my body. It makes me feel much more in tune with my body, and not freak out as much that "something's wrong" when really everything is as it should be! :)

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  2. I know, OBGYNs are useless for fertility. They know nothing. My OB ran my bloodwork on Day 26 of my cycle even though I specifically said to him "Doesn't this need to be done on a certain day??"

    My RE would say that 11 is high. In general, under 6 is excellent, 6-9 is good, 9-10 fair, 10-13 diminished reserve, 13+ very hard to stimulate.

    My highest FSH was an 8 (and apparently your "highest" FSH is your most accurate FSH, even if you sometimes get lower readings in other cycles). 8 falls in the "good" category, but 8 is REALLY HIGH for a barely 24 year old (which is how old I was when I got that result). So I have premature ovarian aging. I'm also pretty hard to stimulate. I was on a strong protocol where I should have produced 5+ eggs, and I would get 1 or 2.

    I think that test is stupid. If it's negative it gives people a false idea that they have nothing wrong with their fertility, when, like you said, there are SO MANY other causes of infertility besides high FSH.

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  3. Ok, weird, my word verification for that was "ovilent." While talking about ovaries.

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  4. Lauren - thats good to know about the FSH ranges! the fact mine is borderline high already according to my RE still lingers in the back of my head like a ticking clock.... like you, i was young when I had the test done... only 25.

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  5. Good experiment and I'm sure many readers appreciate the word not to mess with this test! Happy you got to fulfill your need to POAS =)

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