It’s natural to feel anxious about fertility. Fortunately, as science and technology continue to advance, there are more ways than ever to understand your status. Instead of sitting in the dark, measuring biological markers of fertility can help you make decisions that align with your goals. Dr. Kristy Vermeulen, a naturopathic physician who specializes in fertility, talked us through ovulation and hormone testing, two popular methods to gauge fertility.
If you’re actively trying to conceive, ovulation tests are a resource available at your local drugstore. These urine strips optimize the chance of conception by telling you when you’re fertile. “The most common ovulation tests measure a woman’s luteinizing hormone (LH) levels,” explains Dr. Vermeulen. “Luteinizing hormone causes a woman’s egg to be released by the ovary, a process known as ovulation. When you’re about to release an egg, your luteinizing hormone levels rise to prepare for ovulation.”
She recommends using a single urine strip on the fifth day of your menstrual cycle. Continue doing this every day until you receive a positive test result. This indicates an egg will be released within 48 hours. “Right before ovulation is when a woman is most fertile,” says Dr. Vermeulen. “This is the time to have intercourse, and doing so will increase your chances of getting pregnant.”
She adds that once you ovulate, that egg is gone within 24 hours. “Ideally, you want to have intercourse before ovulation, so there’s sperm waiting for the egg as soon as it gets released.”
Fertility hormone testing
If you’re in the beginning stages of trying to conceive or seeking more information about your own fertility, hormone testing can reveal your natural ability to get pregnant. “Testing your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels and anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels is the best way to understand where your fertility is sitting,” advises Dr. Vermeulen.
FSH levels give you an indication of your ovarian reserve. “If your levels are high, it means that your body is really having to push for ovulation to occur,” says Dr. Vermeulen. “This may be a sign that egg numbers are declining, and it could be a struggle to get pregnant.” AMH levels, on the other hand, reveal egg quality. This hormone naturally declines as egg quality declines.
You can visit your gynecologist or a fertility specialist to get these tests. Most insurance plans will help cover FSH and AMH testing, however the final amount can vary based on where you live and your insurance plan specifics.
Companies like Modern Fertility, EverlyWell, and Future Family offer testing without a visit to the doctor’s office or a fertility clinic. “Modern Fertility takes the same hormone tests offered in top fertility clinics and brings them to women earlier in life,” says Carly Leahy, the co-founder of Modern Fertility. “Women can proactively test fertility hormones to check for red flags, understand egg quantity, timing of menopause, success in egg freezing and IVF, and more.” These tests range in price from $59 to $399, depending on how many hormones are tested.
In terms of accuracy, Dr. Vermeulen says there’s no difference between these at-home tests and those administered by a professional. However, some women may crave in-person support provided by an expert. “A doctor or someone familiar with fertility can give you a personal interpretation of your results,” she says. “Based on your results, they can also advise you on next steps, like egg freezing or IVF, and talk about your options with you.”
As the old saying goes, “Information is power.” Once you’re armed with this hormone data, you can take the necessary actions required to reach your personal goals. If you want a family, for example, you’ll know if it might be a good idea to try and start a family earlier than you originally planned. Or, perhaps you’ll realize that you’re a strong candidate for egg freezing, offered through innovative companies like Carrot Fertility, Progyny, and Glow.
Whether you’re trying to conceive or thinking about starting a family in the future, you no longer have to rely on “wait and see.” Ovulation tests and hormone testing are effective and expert-approved ways to feel smarter and more empowered about fertility. After all, we rely on tools to give us insight into our sleep, number of steps, and spending. Why not fertility too?