Women's fertility is frequently being debated with more focus being placed on the number of eggs a woman has left in her early 30s. There's even a "What's My Fertility" screening programme being promoted in the UK by New York doctors at a cost of £65 where a woman can find out if she is at risk of premature ovarian ageing (POA).
POA is a condition that means a woman's ovarian reserve is low or of poor quality relative to what is expected at a given age. This could result in difficulty conceiving.
The New York programme has proved very popular and has received media attention however it comprises three blood tests and a brief interview about lifestyle and family history in order to determine whether a woman is at risk of POA.
Mr Michael Dooley, a Consultant Gyneacologist at Poundbury Fertility, King Edward VII's Hospital, believes that this type of narrow approach to fertility assessment and diagnosis can be counterproductive and may lead to incorrect conclusions.
According to Mr Dooley, "Fertility is not just about a woman's eggs. There are many more factors to be considered than simply the number of eggs a woman has left in her early 30s. Even if a woman has what would be considered a good number of eggs but her diet is poor or she is a heavy smoker, her chances of getting pregnant or having a successful pregnancy naturally are lower than this test might predict."
"In addition, it is important to consider other health factors such as irregular periods, bleeding during or after sex, history of STDs and let's not forget the partner because the quality of a man's sperm is also very important."
An average woman is born with approximately two million eggs but by the time she turns thirty only about an eighth of these eggs remain and it is this fear that the New York programme focusses on.
The problem is that this means other important factors can be overlooked including the health of a woman's Fallopian tubes, whether a woman suffers from endometriosis or sexually transmitted diseases as well as other factors like her partner's health.
When assessing a woman's fertility potential it is important to consider all of the factors that may affect her chances of having a successful pregnancy. An incomplete, less informative assessment could result in complications for a woman when she is trying to concieve, especially when it comes to managing her expectations.
Mr Dooley says "I think it is absolutley vital that women get their feritility checked from the age of 25 if they are planning on having a family later in life. We get our cars checked once a year so why not get your fertility checked? However, I worry that some screening programmes simply aren't up to the job."
"Fertility is very complex so it is also important to have appropriate support on this journey to parenthood. I make sure all my patients have my mobile number so they can call me at any time if they have a problem. It's also important that we work together with their families, GPs and other health professionals to make sure we achieve the desired result of the patient."
Poundbury Fertility at King Edward VII's Hospital offers a comprehensive test that analyses a range of factors to deliver an accurate analysis of a woman's or couple's fertility potential. This programme includes an extensive questionnaire, a consultation with a named fertility specialist, a scan and blood test to look at ovarian reserve, a semen analysis (where appropriate), a consultation with a Consultant Gynaecologist and a written report to summarise findings and advice. The cost of the initial programme is £500, and provides patients with an accurate assessment of their fertility potential.
Tagged in Women's Health