Many women worry about their future ability to have children – until you start trying for a baby, you have no idea how easy it’ll be for you. And if you do have problems conceiving, you may wish you’d started trying to get pregnant earlier.
These concerns are leading many women to have what is known as a fertility MOT.
Technically known as an anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) or antral follicle count (AFC) test, a fertility MOT assesses your likelihood of getting pregnant.
Doctors say they’re becoming increasingly popular, however some people have concerns that the tests are merely a way for fertility clinics to exploit women’s fears.
We’re told that our fertility will drop off a cliff once we reach the age of 35, and the idea is that a fertility MOT will provide a proactive rather than reactive approach to your future reproductive capacities.
Usually costing between £100 and £200, a fertility MOT measures the number of eggs a woman has, as well as the health of her uterus, ovaries and ovarian follicles.
Some tests can be done at home (where you send off a pin-prick of blood), others are done at clinics and can deliver results in an hour.
For many women, these tests seem like a great idea that could help ease their concerns:
“I’m worried about my fertility because I have PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome],” 26-year-old Issy* from Birmingham told The Independent. “I have no idea if my fertility is poor because the only way to find out is to try to have a baby which, as you can imagine, isn’t ideal.
“I’d love it if a test could tell me if I’ll have problems getting pregnant. I feel like if it were accurate it would really help me plan my life. Right now I don’t know whether waiting until I’m 35 to have kids will see me risking never having them at all.
“At the moment, I feel like my fertility is totally out of my control which is a scary prospect, even though I’m not even sure I want kids at all.”
The majority of women taking fertility MOTs fall into two categories, reports: single women in their 30s who are anxious about having babies later in life as they don’t have a partner, and women in relationships who want to start a family but their partner doesn’t yet.
However, the problem is that fertility MOTs can’t assess the quality of your eggs. And experts aren’t convinced the tests are a good idea.
“There’s no evidence that women need to take any fertility test unless they are having trouble conceiving,” Dr Raj Mathur, lead for Policy and Practice at the British Fertility Society, told The Independent.
Dr Mathur doesn’t believe fertility MOTs are necessary, “and in most cases women would be better advised to start trying to conceive at the earliest point their life situation allows them to.”
Although there are few physical risks to taking the tests – especially the simple Anti-Mullerian Hormone or “egg counting” test which just involves taking a blood sample – there are emotional risks.
“The result of the test could have an emotional impact and ought to be accompanied by effective counselling.,” Dr Mathur recommends.
He stresses that just because your MOT results come back “normal,” that’s no guarantee you’ll be able to conceive a baby. And likewise, an “abnormal” MOT doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get pregnant.
“The ‘MOT’ tests are excellent for people having IVF, but they have not been shown to predict the likelihood of having a baby in couples trying to conceive on their own,” Dr Mathur explains. “Hence, there is a risk of both false reassurance and of creating unnecessary anxiety.”
For this reason, some women are extremely anti the idea of fertility MOTs, saying they would rather not know.
Dr Mathur believes the most important thing is that young people are educated about fertility, because it would allow us to make informed choices about starting a family.
“In particular, young people should be told about the impact of age on fertility, which for women we know is significant,” says Dr Mathur. “There is also growing evidence that men’s fertility is affected by their age.”
It’s talked about less, but male fertility does decline over the age of 40.
For some, a fertility MOT can be useful, but they may not provide all the answers you’re looking for, creating more worry than anything else.
*Name has been changed