02 April 2009

A response to the latest cog in the First Reponse fertility machine

As if women needed another reminder that fertility is kind of like a loaf of bread: if you leave it too long it all goes a bit mouldy and horrible.

Welcome to the latest in pharmaceutical fertility propaganda. First Response, the queen of pregnancy testing in the US and abroad, has just released the Easy Read Ovulation Kit

The purpose of the kit, according to the manufacturer is that it allows you to 'get pregnant sooner' by detecting your LH (luteinising hormone) surges or when you are ovulating. According to First Response, the new product now completes an entire 'system' devoted to reproduction. The new print ads feature all three First Response products, asking “Am I ...” followed by “fertile?” “ovulating?” and “pregnant?” to highlight each test.

Kim Hahn of Conceive magazine said, "They’re going to help a category that is underserved and increase the dialogue about reproduction and women’s fertility health". I totally disagree. This is just another reminder that women should be taking notice of their fertility and if they don't they will start to 'dry up' and only reinforce the idea that if women remain childless they are less valued as women.

On the other hand, as Karen Hammond, a gynecologist, told the NYT, the new test is not an unequivocal indication of fertility. "“If somebody 37 or older has their F.S.H. test come back normal, they’re still their age,” Ms. Hammond said. “It bothers me a bit that these older women might get a false sense of security by getting a normal reading and they’d put off their childbearing because they have a false sense of security.”

Hmm. This is pretty horrible too. False sense of secturity. In essence, she is reinforcing the same horrible claim about being fit enough for motherhood but couched in medical language. It's sort of like she's saying that 'older' women get lulled into thinking that pregnancy is always possible and then SNAP! one day your ovaries become completely useless. In fact, the packaging on the test actually says, “Are You Able to Get Pregnant?*” with an asterisk leading to miniscule type stating that the product will not really answer that question: “This test detects F.S.H. This test does not detect all fertility issues.”

Seriously, how is that supposed to make a woman feel? Are you able to get pregnant? Well, what if the answer is no. First Reponse wants to make sure that women have all of their fertility answers, yet, their own disclaimer tells women directly that the test isn't really a sure thing. What about a male fertility test? Why is it that the viability of sperm seems to be totally left out of the fertility equation? Why aren't more men running out to the chemist to test the quality of their sperm?


Spr0ut said...

Hasn't anyone heard of Fertility Awareness? Of course not... there's no money for big drug companies in it. All it takes is knowledge and self awareness. This is such an unecessary expense.

galnoir said...

I've just discovered your blog, and so far I'm loving it ... which makes me a little sorry that my first comment is one of disagreement.

I consider myself a feminist, and I definitely do not think that women should be pressured into having babies before they're (situationally, financially, emotionally, etc.) ready. BUT ... at age 34 and facing infertility myself (we've been trying for a year now), I think that women also need to be aware that fertility is a finite resource—it's not just backlash, pronatalist propaganda. A woman who doesn't want children during her prime childbearing years, but knows that she does want them when circumstances allow, might want to talk to an OB/GYN or even a reproductive endocrinologist to get a baseline assessment of her fertility. That way, she'll know whether she needs to be agressive seeking treatment when she is ready ... or even start socking away money for advanced treatment (e.g., IUI, IVF) or for adoption expenses.

Again, I agree 100% that women are not baby-making machines. But women who do want children need to be aware of their fertility status and their options if they delay childbearing.

galnoir said...

I have one response waiting in the moderation queue, but I realized that I had more to say about this. :-D

Although knowing your fertility status is important, I think OTC kits such as this are bunk. If you're truly worried about your ovarian reserve or egg quality, or your partner's sperm (OTC tests do exist for that, too), it's worth shelling out for an office visit to a reproductive endocrinologist. A fertility work-up for a woman should give her CD3 FSH, estrogen, and LH levels (high FSH, or normal FSH combined with high estrogen, could indicate diminished ovarian reserve; LH higher than FSH could indicate PCOS) and should also include a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) or saline sonogram to check for fibroids or blocked tubes. A semen analysis will show sperm motility and morphology as well as count.

Fertility factors aren't like a pregnancy test; it's not a binary, yes-or-no situation. Only a doctor can look at all the factors and determine where a couple falls on the spectrum of (in)fertility.

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