This week a new step in learning more about infertility was announced. What’s My Fertility, an innovative infertility risk screening program, launched the first-risk screening for Premature Ovarian Aging (POA) in young women in eight states across the country.
Infertility is a widespread problem, according to the CDC about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after having regular unprotected sex. In a third of the cases, infertility is due to either female or male infertility factors. In rest of the cases, the cause is either unknown or a combination of both male and female factors. As a result of infertility, couples require limited and costly treatments, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), which are often not covered by insurance and can cost up to $15,000 for one cycle in the U.S.
The CDC reports that the first birth rates for women 35–39 increased from the mid-1970s to 2012 and that the average age of women conceiving their first child is now 26, a 3.3 percent increase from the 1980’s. As people are having babies later in life, which tends to play into infertility issues it is no surprise that the Global Infertility Market to grow at a CAGR of 4.52% over the period 2014-2019.
Causes of Infertility
In males, infertility is usually due to a couple of factors including low sperm production, movement of the sperm which can be caused by the shape of the sperm, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Sometimes a man is born with the problems that affect his sperm. Other times problems start later in life due to illness or injury.
Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation which resulting in their being no eggs to be fertilized. Signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of female infertility. PCOS is a hormone imbalance problem which can interfere with normal ovulation. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another cause of ovulation problems. POI occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause. POA is a condition where women’s ovaries age faster than normal and they lose eggs at an accelerated pace; the condition impacts approximately one in 10 women, independent of race and ethnic background. As more women are having children later in life, POA is mostly diagnosed at advanced female ages when treatment choices are limited and often costly.
New Screening Process for POA Infertility
The new risk screening program will attempt to make young women more aware of POA to increase their treatment and family planning options. “After treating infertility in women for decades and hearing them tell us time and time again that they wished they had known of the risk of POA so that they could have planned for a family sooner, we were determined to find a better way to proactively identify POA in young women,” states Norbert Gleicher, MD, FACOG, FACS, one of the founders of What’s My Fertility, Medical Director and Chief Scientist of The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR). “POA screening will empower women with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions earlier in life and will help them avoid the emotional and hefty costs of later infertility treatments.”
What’s My Fertility is now available online in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. A national rollout, both online and in OB-GYN offices, will follow.
The written report based on the screens includes specific recommendations for patients. Women who have an increased risk are advised to enter a follow up testing schedule until risk is either confirmed or refuted. Women with an early diagnosis of POA have expanded options for conceiving naturally: they can advance their pregnancy plans and likely conceive without medical help, or they can preserve their fertility by freezing eggs at a young age. To learn more about the What’s My Fertility or to take the screening, visit: www.whatsmyfertility.com
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Lindsey McCoy MPA, is an Executive Medical Recruiter and former CEO in the not for profit sector.