Data lacking for many home fertility tests: study


Posted at Feb 28 2011 07:14 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2011 03:14 AM

NEW YORK - Many at-home kits used to predict a woman's fertility, a man's sperm viability or a baby's gender lack solid data to confirm their accuracy, according to a new review of pregnancy and fertility tests.

A trio of researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore looked at dozens of products across a range of applications, including pregnancy tests, genetic screens and various measurements used to determine when a woman is ovulating.

"A lot of them are good and serve a useful purpose, but some are not, and may even have claims that are misleading to patients," said Paul Brezina, one of the study authors, whose results were published in "Fertility and Sterility."

His team analyzed medical literature, searched online, and spoke with manufacturers to assess the quality of evidence available for each product.

Common, over-the-counter pregnancy tests that measure hormone levels in urine are some of the more reliable products available, they said.

"Pregnancy tests have been subjected to the scrutiny of scientific investigation and have publicly mandated control measures aimed at ensuring their accuracy," they wrote.

The same is true for fertility monitors that use hormone concentrations to predict when a woman is ovulating.

But a variety of other consumer products used to predict ovulation, such as tests that analyze saliva or vaginal secretions, failed to have reliable, independent studies confirming their accuracy.

The same issues exist for products to identify a baby's sex.

"We looked hard, and we couldn't find any data," Brezina added.

Some experts said that in some cases, a lack of accuracy could be harmful.

"The bigger concern with some of these tests is being falsely reassured, because (people who use the tests) won't seek adequate care quickly enough," said Jackie Gutmann, a fertility specialist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study.