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At the doctor's or on your couch: Why location matters when it comes to fertility hormone testing

4 min read

With so many ways to prevent pregnancy, what about if and when you actually want to get pregnant? Will you be able to? While fertility is not something that can be 100% accurately predicted, there are certain hormones that can play a role in the big picture. With many women waiting later in life to start families (hello, careers!), fertility testing can allow you to better plan for your future. You also have a choice about where you can get hormone testing done, either in your doctor's office or in your very own home. As a women's health care provider, I'm going to give you the lowdown on what you should should know about the pros and cons of each.

Fertility testing at your OB-GYN

Most OB-GYN offices (excluding those that may specialize in fertility) do not routinely order fertility-related lab work. Why? To shoot it straight: it’s generally not covered by insurance, because fertility testing is not considered screening or preventative. Because of this, many insurance companies won’t cover the tab for any fertility-related labs tests or visits. Certain tests, like hormone levels, may be drawn, but usually only if there is a reason to do so (for example, if your periods are irregular).

As a women’s healthcare provider, I never want patients to get surprise bills in the mail. So while lab testing may be performed under my supervision, I can’t always vouch for what sort of bill you may receive. In order to avoid these question-mark costs, I often coach patients on basic family planning practices, like birth control counseling when not trying to conceive, and ovulation tracking when trying.

According to UptoDate, 85% of couples will conceive within the first 12 months of trying. Because of that statistic, fertility testing and work-ups are not regularly performed until a couple has not conceived within that time frame. Which is great, unless you’re that other 15%. For that 15%, fertility labs and work-ups will come into the picture — but only after that 6-12 months of trying (that's 6 months if you're over 35, and 12 months if you're under). Even then, insurance coverage may not be a guaranteed thing. So, if you’re wanting to test before you start trying, Modern Fertility is your best bet.

Testing through Modern Fertility

One of the biggest perks to using Modern Fertility is that there is no surprise cost; you know exactly what you’re paying, up-front. And, similarly to a gyno visit, you can use your HSA or FSA account to cover the tab. Not so similar to a gyno visit? A visit to your healthcare provider isn’t needed. Testing can be done at home with a simple finger prick; all you have to do is send your samples to our lab for analysis. If you’re not comfortable performing the finger prick yourself, you can also head to a nearby lab for a blood draw.

Fertility tests are a little more complicated than most; because hormone levels naturally fluctuate throughout our cycle, values will vary depending on the day. To get the most accurate testing, most labs that evaluate ovarian reserve have to be performed on certain cycle days; these lab tests are most accurate on the third day of your period. So, if you can’t get to your OB-GYN office on that certain day or have an irregular period and are not sure when your day three will arrive, you may be out of luck until next month. Additionally, certain lab tests require an eight hour fast, so are best done first thing in the morning before eating breakfast or exercising. An at-home finger prick may be the easiest way to avoid missing the window if your schedule doesn’t always allow for last-minute appointments, you have an irregular period, or you simply don’t want to bother getting out of your pajamas or skipping your morning smoothie.

Another benefit to using Modern Fertility is the access to trained healthcare providers. Physicians (and ones who work in the fertility field, no less) interpret your results in a patient-friendly way, making your report easy to understand. The role of each hormone in fertility is explained in detail, and your own results are shown on a scale, so you can see exactly where you fall. For all results, whether they’re low, normal, or elevated, Modern Fertility provides a summary of what that may mean for you. 1:1 consult with a fertility nurse is also included in the cost, so you can check in with any questions. If you love your healthcare provider (and we hope you do!), you can bring your results to them to discuss along with a printable doctor discussion guide. Another cool feature that Modern Fertility offers (that you likely won’t get at your gyno) is a timeline tool, which allows you to plug in your desired age to have kids (and how many!), to create a personalized fertility timeline.

Lab testing for fertility can be performed at your OB/GYN office or at home (or at a lab) through Modern Fertility. While both will give you the same results, Modern Fertility is typically more cost-effective and easier, since you don’t even have to leave your house. The added support, through physician-read reports, fertility nurse consults, and the Modern Fertility online community, is just a bonus (but a pretty great one, if you ask me). So if you’re considering proactive fertility lab work, whether you’re a planner or just plain curious, Modern Fertility can deliver results and tools in a way that makes family planning easy.

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Kara Earthman

Kara Earthman is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) and writer living and working in Nashville, TN. You can find more of Kara's work on her blog EarthWoman.

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