October 26, 2010 — by Rob Stein — The Washington Post
There's some new research out that is raising questions about those home fertility tests that are being sold in drug stores. A new study found that the tests may incorrectly label women infertile even though they are still capable of having babies.
Increasingly, women have been delaying having babies until they have finished their education, established their careers or found the right man. But that means more women are having difficulties having children, which has increased demand for urine tests that measure the hormone known as follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH. FSH levels have been shown to help predict the timing of menopause and the likelihood of being able to conceive using infertility treatments. But it remains unclear how useful FSH levels are for predicting natural fertility or infertility in the general public.
So Anne Steiner of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill and colleagues studied 100 women who were considered at risk for fertility problems because of their age. As soon as the women stopped taking birth control, the researchers started measuring their FSH levels as well as levels of another hormone known as anti-mullerian hormone or AMH. They researchers then followed the women to see how long it took them to get pregnant naturally.
One-quarter of the women would have been deemed infertile based on their FSH levels, but in fact they did not have more difficulty getting pregnant than other women in the study, the researchers reported Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver. While different levels of FSH could apparently help predict which women might have problems with infertility, the researchers found that AMH was much better at predicting fertility. AMH, however, can only be measured through a blood test.
Steiner and her colleagues are planning to study a total of 750 women to try to find better ways to predict infertility.