Some women depend on certain laboratory tests to determine whether they're infertile or not. Turns some of these may be essentially unreliable, according to a new study.
Some tests, especially those that determine a woman's ovary reserves, may not be painting an accurate picture of her fertility, because the study claims that a low egg count isn't necessarily linked to a woman's inability to conceive.
Egg Count Tests Not Sufficient To Determine Fertility
The researchers looked at blood test and urine test results for so-called biomarkers that determine a woman's ovarian reserve across 750 women aged 30 to 44. Those whose results indicate they have low egg counts were not less likely to conceive a child within 6 to 12 months of trying than those whose results didn't suggest low egg supply, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Tuesday, Oct. 10.
While the blood tests do predict how well a woman will respond to fertility treatment, their ability to predict a woman's reproductive potential remains uncertain, according to the study.
"[W]e found that [the tests] do not predict her likelihood of conceiving naturally," said Dr. Anne Steiner of the University of North Carolina, the lead author of the study. "This challenges the clinical dogma that diminished ovarian reserve is a cause of infertility."
While women continue to seek tests "outside of their age" to know the status of their infertility, Steiner says that the best predictor of a woman's fertility is still her age.
Infertility: A Look At The Data
Infertility is defined by the inability to conceive a child after a year of unprotected sex, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 in the United States can't get pregnant after a year of attempting; in terms of all women aged 15 to 44, about 12 percent are either having difficulty getting pregnant or carrying their pregnancy to term.
Women are all born with a limited supply of eggs, which depletes as they age. The researchers note that some doctors use tests for ovarian reserve biomarkers for them to be able to recommend egg freezing as a way for some women to preserve their fertility even as they come of age.
The study has a few blind spots, however. For starters, it was only able to assess conception, but not whether the participants successfully delivered their babies. This is important because a low egg count may increase the risk of miscarriage, the researchers said.
Also, they didn't study the quality of the sperm of the women's partners, meaning this hugely important component was entirely missing from the whole study.