For those accustomed to tracking their steps and sleep with the swipe of a finger, it would make sense that pulling up data about our ovaries should be just as easy. A number of startups and drug developers think so—as more women put off having a baby (or another baby) until their late 30’s and 40’s, at-home fertility tests (a relatively cheap and easy way to ease that biological clock panic—or trigger it) are popping up. But do they work? Is it possible to tell how fertile you are before you try for a baby?
You might want to save your money, says Traci Johnson, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Missouri. “With all the conversations we’re having about women’s rights and fertility, it’s important to know the truth.” While these tests can measure hormones like follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH), they only give a slight indication as to how your egg reserve is doing. (Some research has found that women with low AMH levels are just as likely to conceive as those with normal levels, anyway.) Your fertility is much more complicated than the result of a single hormone test—which is why a legit fertility workup at the doctor’s office includes a look at your ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and partner’s sperm. (A third of the time, infertility is a male reproductive issue.)
Are there any other signs you’ll get pregnant easily when you’re ready to try? “If you have regular periods when you’re not on any form of contraception, it’s a good indicator that you’ll be fertile,” says Johnson. (Of course, it’s no guarantee.) Age is also a big factor—fertility tends to steadily decline beginning in our early 30’s. But the rules aren’t hard and fast as we all have a different quality egg supply: “It’s not like you’re done just because you turn 35, or 40—we have women in our practice who are pregnant at age 41, 42, 44,” says Johnson.
Your overall health can impact your fertility, too—certain reproductive health issues like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and hormonal imbalances that can make it trickier to get pregnant. (The great news is that fertility doctors are becoming superstars at helping lots of women with these issues conceive if that’s their end goal.)
So while all the stuff you already know you’re supposed to do—not smoke, eat healthy, maintain your weight, exercise—are good for your eggs, there’s no surefire way to tell whether or not you’ll get pregnant down the road. Until science catches up with us (our belief: whenever you’re ready to have a baby is the right time!) the best move is to keep track of your period and pay those regular visits to your gyno for the most solid advice about family planning.