What is a Fertility MOT and where do I get one?
I got married at 34 with little awareness of my cycle I was pretty regular but hadn’t ever given it much thought. I didn’t understand it, as all I’d ever been asked was ‘When was your last period’ Having been on the pill it was pretty easy to recall yet I never really questioned what was going on inside, in fact I only started to think about my reproductive health once we ‘started trying’.
Like most of us, school has been all about not getting pregnant. I knew a lot about contraception, where to get free condoms and how to easily get the pill, how to get the morning after pill if needed, yet I had little awareness of my cycle, no idea about natural fertility and absolutely no recollection of ever seeing any information about not being able to get pregnant or the importance of understanding my fertile age or my egg reserve and egg health. I went to an all girls school so can’t comment on what the boys learnt, but I know it wasn’t about how to maintain healthy sperm!
It’s like the information stopped once we’d been told about the birds and the bees and family planning lessons were preventative rather than proactive.
When we started trying as I was in my 30’s, I had friends with children who had conceived easily, as well as friends who had been trying for a while and had started to ask their GP for tests.
I’d also had friends who had been told they needed further tests and my best friend had confided in me that they needed to have IVF. I subsequently witnessed her having failed treatment, having to miss my hen do which she organised due to needing to take her trigger… so I was fully aware of how impactful treatment was and how it wasn’t a guarantee
I remember a conversation with a girlfriend who told me she had lied to her GP about how long she had been trying so she was eligible for tests. So when it wasn’t happening for us, my timeline of the time trying stretched to being a year, so we were eligible for tests.
If you google ‘NHS fertility tests’ the information you get states that more than 80% of couples where the woman is under 40 will conceive naturally within a year of having regular unprotected sex. Regular unprotected sex means having sex every two to three days without using contraception. One of the most common conversations I’ve had with experts I’ve spoken to over the last five years of making the fertility podcast is that all too often couples aren’t having enough sex. I won’t go into the details of the frequency of our sex life but I feel we were giving it a good go, yet I was keen to check things were as they should be.
Would it ever occur to you that you can check your fertility? As a 20 something, working in PR in the West End, partying till the early hours and enjoying the hazy days of a relationship it certainly never did to me and it wasn’t a conversation any of my peers were having. Now however I know about companies such as Modern Fertility and Apricity who have tests using AI to find out your fertile age plus knowing what I know now, from creating The Fertility Podcast for five years I would have checked sooner.
Maybe there should be more of a link up with dating apps so it can be part of your decision process - swipe right for high sperm count and good AMH levels to encourage more of us to find this kind of information out!
The thing is with the GP wanting you to have been trying for a year it could become a barrier to you finding out more about your fertility. I feel quite strongly that we should all get as much information about our fertile health as soon as we want to have a baby and it might seem to be taking a while - to empower us to make good choices - be it fertility preservation or whether you just start trying sooner.
So what is a Fertility MOT? Well it’s series of tests that will tell that will give you more information on your ability to get pregnant or father a child that you can pay for at most fertility clinics.
We’re talking about testing your anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels, which is a hormone secreted by cells in developing egg sacs (follicles). The idea being is that the level of AMH in a woman's blood is generally a good indicator of her ovarian reserve. You may also have an internal ultrasound, a consultation and for guys a basic semen analysis. Now some clinics offer the results all within an hour but it varies and cost wise we’re talking anything from £125 to £200 depending on where you go.
Does knowledge equal power?
Personally I was pleased we had a test and found out where we might have an issue .Some fertility experts question whether the MOT’s are necessary as they would prefer us to just get trying as soon as possible and are worried that we may get complacent if an MOT gives us a clean bill of health.
Ultimately, what we need to focus on is making all of us more aware of our fertility health and making sure we all understand our cycles and Men realise that their sperm health is an issue as well - as recent studies have shown sperm counts being on the decline which is why asking questions and if you want to have tests having tests can only be a good thing.
Natalie Silverman hosts The Fertility Podcast and is hosting the Let’s Talk Fertility Stage at The Fertility Show. Follow her on insta / twitter @fertilitypoddy