I Got A $45 Assessment & I Learned More Than I Thought I Would
It might seem like a strange hobby for a single, 26-year-old woman, but I'm kind of obsessed with fertility. It all started a few years ago when I went off oral contraceptives and, like so many women, experienced a bit of a hormone roller coaster as my body readjusted its own natural rhythms. But at the same time as I struggled with common symptoms of post-birth-control syndrome—like breakouts, moodiness, irregular cycles—I was cultivating a newfound respect for the incredible changes my body goes through each month.
These days, my hormones are back on track—thanks to some very tailored supplements, lifestyle changes, and a healthy dose of time and patience—but this newfound hormone harmony hasn't decreased my interest in fertility. I obsessively track my cycles using an app (called Natural Cycles) and participate in all kinds of hormone-balancing rituals, like seed cycling.
But I wanted to go deeper, to find out what I could learn about my fertility now, even though I'm not planning on having children anytime soon. Lucky for me, there's a whole industry that's sprung up to cater to this kind of curiosity. There are at-home fertility tests like those from Thorne and EverlyWell, and a new fertility studio called Trellis, that offers a $45 fertility assessment—along with egg freezing, fertility wellness consults, and other services—to see what a person can (and should!) learn about their fertility health long before they're planning to conceive. I decided to check it out.
What a fertility test can tell you about your health.
The assessment consisted of two different tests—an ultrasound and a blood test to check specific hormone levels—and a consult with a fertility doctor to ask questions, get answers, and talk about your goals and timelines The whole process took about an hour and then the results from the blood test took about a week to get back. It's recommended that women get their fertility health evaluated with ultrasounds and blood tests like the ones above anywhere from their early 20s to their early 30s. It's important to know that you don't have to go to a fancy, modern Manhattan fertility studio for these tests, either. They can be done by any fertility specialist and even your OB/GYN—although it's recommended you see a fertility specialist who is well-versed in interpreting the test and suggesting a game plan based on the results.
So what did I learn? The blood test checked levels of a hormone called AMH, which stands for Anti-Müllerian hormone. If you've never even heard of this hormone, you're not alone—neither had I! According to Michelle Danos, R.N., at Trellis, "AMH is the best indicator of your egg reserve. It's important to test it because it gives you a snapshot of what your fertility looks like today." My results were normal for a woman my age, and a healthy range is between one and six.
The purpose of the ultrasound is to check out your ovaries to see how follicles are present and how healthy they look (something called an antral follicle count). I learned that I have plenty of follicles to work with for someone my age—good to know—and that I have no physical impediments to getting pregnant and having a baby one day, which is also good to know. From the combination of the ultrasound and the blood test, you get a good idea of your ovarian reserve and could also uncover something like PCOS, which can interfere with fertility in some cases but responds positively to lifestyle changes.
Why it's best to have this information sooner rather than later.
The troubling truth is that many women aren't thinking about their fertility health early enough. According to Victoria Maizes, M.D., executive director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and author of Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child, "The focus for young women is almost exclusively on not getting pregnant. And women see celebrities in their 40s having kids galore, so they are often unaware that fertility wanes as you get older." And this waiting way too long is a very common problem among women since fertility is something we often don't think about—except in the context of NOT wanting to get pregnant, as Dr. Maizes pointed out—until it's front of mind and we want to get pregnant right now, and then we try to cram years' worth of learning into a few short weeks or months. It's better to know ahead of time if there are going to be any obstacles in your path, and a test like this can help you do just that.
My results didn't reveal anything that I need to act on today, but when I asked if the results of these tests change many women's whole approach to their fertility health and timeline, the answer was yes. "Many women don't realize that diminished ovarian reserve and going into early menopause can be genetic. They've just never had that conversation. So sometimes, a healthy 30 year old with AMH of 0.5 could be indicative of menopause earlier in life." explained Danos. And I don't know about you, but even if I didn't have an obsession with this topic, that's information I'd want to have sooner rather than later.
Once you have a better picture of your fertility health, you can make empowered choices about it. This could mean egg freezing, yes, but it can also mean simply optimizing your diet and lifestyle. After all, there are certain lifestyle habits that interfere with fertility more than others. These include obvious things like alcohol intake, smoking, and your weight but also less obvious things like how much coffee you drink every day. So many women wait until the final hour to learn these things about their fertility, and it can lead to a lot of anxiety and struggling to get pregnant—especially if you're in your late 30s.
So even if you don't want kids in the immediate or even distant future, you can care about your fertility health today. And the great news is that you don't need a stable partner, a big house, or a steady income to care about your fertility health now. What's the ultimate goal? When and if you decide you're ready for a baby, your body will be, too.
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