Think twice before taking a fertility scan! Experts fear High Street exams could open ‘Pandora’s box’

Experts have warned that couples should think twice before taking a fertility scan, as it is feared that the expensive tests could cause stress and lead to unnecessary egg freezing.

Fertility experts have spoken out after major companies like Superdrug started selling both male and female fertility tests.

Critics say the tests are just a “snapshot” of fertility.

Fertility tests, now available on the high street in the UK, indicate how many eggs a woman has left to give birth to a child and how fertile they are.

Fertility can fluctuate throughout the month for women, and it varies for men depending on when they last had sex.

The female fertility test offered by Superdrug for £77, which is also offered through other retailers and clinics, looks at anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) – a chemical made by the ‘follicles’ that implant eggs in a woman’s body.

The test indicates how many eggs she has left to conceive a baby, as well as how fertile she is.

Superdrug has doctors who can give women detailed advice after they’ve had the tests.

Who gets free IVF on the NHS?

IVF is only offered on the NHS if certain criteria are met.

In 2013, NICE published fertility guidelines that made recommendations about who should get treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.

However, individual NHS clinical commissioning groups make the final decision on who can access it in their local area, and their standards may be more stringent.

According to NICE, women under 42 on the NHS should be offered three cycles of IVF treatment if:

They tried to conceive by having regular unprotected sex for two years.

They were unable to conceive after 12 cycles of IVF.

If tests show that IVF is the only treatment likely to help you conceive, you should be referred to IVF immediately.

Source: NHS Choices

But Dr Channa Jayasena, a consultant reproductive endocrinologist at Imperial College London, said the test could open a “Pandora’s box”, causing unnecessary anxiety to couples.

‘People often assume that low AMH is bad for future fertility, and high AMH is good,’ said Dr. Jayasena.

However, it only tells you how many eggs can be collected if you have IVF now.

Women with very low AMH can still conceive naturally.

The AMH test is a specialized test for people who have had IVF – not one that should be used regularly by women who are just curious about their fertility.

“It’s important to remember that if one of these tests is interpreted incorrectly, it could lead to some women experiencing undue stress, or even undergoing inappropriate procedures such as egg freezing.”

Women freeze their eggs to obtain younger, better quality eggs which may improve their chances of conceiving through IVF when they are older.

The procedure costs an average of £3,350, and up to £350 a year for egg storage.

Experts worry that women who are wary of fertility tests may do so unnecessarily when they have no problem conceiving naturally.

Dr Joyce Harper, professor of reproductive sciences at University College London, said: ‘Women’s hormones fluctuate throughout their menstrual cycle, so measuring it on any given day is just a snapshot of the day and things can be very different after a few days.

Studies have shown that most women under the age of 35 who are trying to conceive will become pregnant within a year – most within six months.

“I think doing these tests and charging women is unfair.”

The £148 male fertility test offered by Superdrug tests a man’s sperm and provides analysis on 22 measurements including sperm count, quality and ability to swim.

Experts warn that men who have not been able to conceive naturally for 12 months can get a free test on the NHS.

Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust, said: ‘Superdrug doctors online are unlikely to be fertility specialists, and public sector fertility specialists may suddenly find themselves dealing with large numbers of anxious patients who have used the service and are struggling to understand their results.

The £148 male fertility test offered by Superdrug (pictured above) tests a man's sperm and provides analysis on 22 measurements including sperm count, quality and ability to swim

The £148 male fertility test offered by Superdrug (pictured above), tests a man’s sperm and provides analysis on 22 measurements including sperm count, quality and ability to swim

Gwenda Burns, chief executive of the UK’s national charity Fertility Network, said: ‘When you’re struggling with fertility issues you can be desperate for answers, and tests can seem like a quick and easy way to find out more.

“But understanding the implications of the results of these tests without a professional’s involvement can lead to further distress and misunderstanding of your fertility status — giving false hope or unnecessarily shattering dreams.”

AMH tests give an idea of ​​a woman’s ‘ovarian reserve’ – how many eggs she has left.

The British Fertility Society’s advice states: “There is no doubt that tests showing a good ovarian reserve are reassuring, but they are by no means a guarantee of having a baby, and poor or poor ovarian reserve does not mean that you will suffer and need fertility treatment.”

The fertility regulator, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, advises that MOT fertility tests give “some indication” of a woman’s fertility but that results are “not guaranteed”.

Superdrug also offers tests including a polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) status test and a progesterone test, which can indicate if women are ovulating.

A Superdrug spokesperson said: ‘As part of the tests on offer, people have access to professional advice and support from our team of clinicians, to discuss their results in more detail, enabling them to gain a more informed understanding of their fertility.

We also offer a fertility consultation for £5 which provides information about what tests are beneficial to each individual, along with doctor-led advice on why some tests may not be suitable for an individual’s circumstances.

The AMH test is a routine test of the ovarian reserve that is performed for everyone who has difficulty getting pregnant.

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