A recent news segment broadcast on Chicago’s local CBS TV station spotlights a growing trend for seemingly healthy women in their 20s: fertility assessments. These 20-something women may not be trying to start a family just now or they’re not even ready to think about it but they are thinking about the future. By getting fertility check-ups now, they hope to optimize their chances of having healthy babies when the time is right.
According to Dr. Eve Feinberg, the number of fertility check-ups done by a local fertility center jumped by 1,500% in just two years; only 40 assessments were done in 2012 but 600 were done in 2014. Feinberg, a fertility specialist, is affiliated with the Fertility Centers of Illinois as well as the NorthShore University Health System.
Feinberg says the typical fertility assessment includes ultrasound scans to gauge health of the ovaries and the number of ovarian follicles in each ovary. The assessment also includes testing the blood for two hormones important to reproduction:
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) — low levels of FSH are desired, according to Feinberg.
- Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) — high levels are best.
Most women wait until experiencing difficulties conceiving during their 30s before having a fertility check-up but that could be too late for some women. One young woman in the CBS Chicago segment, Hannah Johnson, has a history of irregular menstrual cycles and her mother experienced fertility issues. “I never knew what was going to play out in the future,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s fertility assessment revealed low levels of AMH, a finding that prompted Johnson and her husband to create and freeze embryos they’ll use to start their family in the future, when Johnson might not be able to conceive otherwise. Low levels of AMH can signal early menopause and other fertility complications.
Johnson’s friend, Caitlin Wilkinson, also underwent a fertility check-up only to find no cause for concern. Johnson and Wilkinson say within their circle of 20-something friends, fertility is a topic of frequent discussion.
At the Fertility Centers of Illinois, where Johnson and Wilkerson were tested, the assessment costs $90 and includes semen analysis. Assessment fees for other providers in the area and in geographic areas outside Chicago may vary.
If cause for concern is identified in an initial fertility check-up, follow-up procedures to clearly identify the issue may be needed. Some more in-depth procedures might include more detailed hormone analysis, a hysterosalpingogram to ensure the fallopian tubes are open and healthy, sonohysterography or hysteroscopy to assess health of the uterus, and laparoscopy to detect endometriosis or other abnormalities of the pelvic cavity.
- Tellez, Roseanne. "More Young Women Getting Fertility Checkups." CBS Chicago. CBS Local Media / CBS Radio Inc., 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
- "Fact Sheet: Diagnostic Testing for Female Infertility." American Society for Reproductive Medicine. ASRM, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 2012. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.