About That Fertility Test You Just Bought

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We get it: The costs associated with most kinds of health care are off the charts, and fertility treatments or care in general is astronomically expensive. It's totally reasonable to be excited about fertility-related tests you can buy off the shelf. Unfortunately, we all need to understand the promise and limitations that these tests can offer.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have just released a study bringing down to earth some cost-saving measures for hopeful parents. If you've ever sought out a direct-to-consumer diagnostic tool for measuring fertility, sometimes called the "egg timer" or "biological clock test," you may be better off seeking out a doctor. A company with a profit motive can easily raise awareness of the benefits of certain tests or procedures, but it's not guaranteed to deliver what eager or even desperate consumers want.

"Though there may be some benefits to consumers using DTC fertility testing, across the board participants were left with incorrect assumptions about the power of hormone testing to predict fertility," said the paper's author, Moira Kyweluk. "No test or medical procedure guarantees future fertility — including egg freezing — and these startups directly target women who are concerned about their reproductive futures."

Ethicists have similar concerns about the other big direct-to-consumer science you may have heard a lot about: genetic testing. While we have every reason to rail against the health care industrial complex and the wild, wild west of health-related startups, your best bet is always going to be relying on trained and certified professionals to answer your questions about your reproductive future.