'Fertility MOTs' for women trying to conceive may be waste of money, study suggests

Tests offered at clinics across UK for women worried about their age

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 10 October 2017 21:07 BST
A new study suggests ovarian reserve tests may be a waste of money
A new study suggests ovarian reserve tests may be a waste of money (Getty Images)

Popular ovarian reserve tests marketed at women to tell the quantity and quality of their eggs have no bearing on whether they go on to conceive, a new study suggests.

The tests are offered at fertility clinics across the UK as a way of predicting responses to potential fertility treatment for women who are worried they may have left it too late to have a baby.

But the study found the procedure, which costs hundreds of pounds, is likely a waste of money.

The new research into “fertility MOTs”, from the University of North Carolina and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), examined whether the biomarkers of ovarian reserve used in tests were linked to ability to conceive.

The biomarkers included early-follicular-phase serum antimullerian hormone (AMH) and serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are commonly used in UK tests.

The study was among 750 women aged 30 to 44 years without a history of infertility who had been trying to conceive for three months or less.

The results showed that low AMH or high FSH had no bearing on the chance of a woman falling pregnant within any given month, and did not lead to a lower chance of conceiving after six or 12 months.

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The researchers said: "Among women aged 30 to 44 years without a history of infertility who had been trying to conceive for three months or less, biomarkers indicating diminished ovarian reserve compared with normal ovarian reserve were not associated with reduced fertility.

"These findings do not support the use of urinary or blood follicle-stimulating hormone tests or antimullerian hormone levels to assess natural fertility for women with these characteristics."

British Fertility Society president, Professor Adam Balen, said: "The key thing about this research is that it's on women who don't have fertility problems and have only just started trying to conceive.

"Fertility does decline as both men and particularly women get older and so if you start trying for a baby and think there may be problems, or if you've been trying for a year without success, don't delay before seeking advice from a fertility specialist, who will then guide you to the appropriate tests that are right for your personal situation."

Professor Richard Anderson, from the Medical Research Council's Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, said: "Many more women are concerned about having their first child when older than was the case for previous generations, leading to pressure to seek 'fertility tests'.

"This paper, confirming smaller earlier studies, shows that we do not have such a thing.

"The most important test is whether a woman is ovulating, ie, whether she is releasing an egg every month, rather than how many eggs she might have in reserve.

"It's important to note however that this study has only short-term outcomes, the chance of conceiving in the next six to 12 months, and doesn't examine what these tests might tell us about fertility in say five years time."

Additional reporting by PA

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