Women in their 30s are now having more children than those in their 20s, according to the CDC. But putting off childbearing can affect a woman’s chances to get pregnant.
A San Francisco-based startup, Modern Fertility, has launched an at-home hormone test similar to those done in fertility clinics.
Lauren Denham is a lifestyle blogger and actress. She’s also a stand-in for stars like Reese Witherspoon on TV and movie sets. Denham said she’s been so focused on her career that having children didn’t cross her mind until she turned 30 last year, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.
“I was like well I’m not ready, but my body is, and it probably is time to start thinking about it,” Denham said. “And that’s when I started thinking about, ‘Oh, maybe I should freeze my eggs, look at my options.'”
Because eggs decrease in both quantity and quality with age, an increasing number of women are choosing to freeze their eggs during their prime reproductive years. Denham wanted to know whether she should move forward now or wait, which led her to Modern Fertility. The company referred us to Denham to hear her story.
“This was just something that I could literally order online right now, get the test, test it on my own time, and get the results in a couple days,” Denham said.
After a woman orders the test online, she pricks her finger, places drops of blood on a test strip, and sends it back to an accredited lab where it’s tested for nine hormones. The company then sends back a physician-reviewed online profile explaining how her hormone levels may affect the number of eggs she has left, if she’s ovulating normally, and potential red flags that could affect her fertile window.
Carly Leahy and Afton Vechery co-founded Modern Fertility last year. They wanted to make the testing done at fertility clinics easily available to women everywhere.
“We’re really speaking to women much earlier in life who know that a career may be important and they may want to have children down the road, but want to be able to check in proactively,” Leahy said.
“Why use this product? Why not just go to a fertility clinic then?” Villarreal asked.
“Modern Fertility is the first step for women,” Vechery said. “We’re really working with women before they get to a doctor’s office and giving them this information so that they can have a more informed conversation with their doctor.”
Industry experts say getting this testing done and consulting with a doctor through a clinic costs an average of $600 compared to the $199 test offered by Modern Fertility.
“Because we’re opening this up to now half the population, we can achieve economies of scale and offer a much lower price point,” Vechery said.
Dr. Aldo Palmieri is the director of OB-GYN at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. He said it’s important to remember that hormone levels alone cannot predict whether a woman will be able to conceive naturally and worries women may misinterpret their test results.
“Patients will be led to conclusions that may be incorrect because if the test results show all the levels are normal it doesn’t mean they are fertile necessary,” Palmieri said.
Vechery responded to critics who might say the test could give people a false sense of hope.
“There are many things required for a successful pregnancy and at Modern Fertility we’re focused on fertility education. … The only way you can tell whether you’re fertile is to have a baby,” Vechery said. “But there are tests that you can take where you can get more information about what’s going on in your body so that you can make the decisions that are right for you.”
Both Palmieri and the company recommend consulting with a doctor about the test results.
Denham’s profile showed low levels of a key hormone that affects the number of eggs she’s producing. That prompted her to meet with her gynecologist who recommended re-testing her hormones in a few months. She’s chosen to increase certain vitamins and supplements and is researching freezing her eggs within the next three months.
“I still don’t know if I want kids but I know that I want the choice. So this is me being proactive to hopefully have that choice,” Denham said.
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