The egg-timer test, known clinically as anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) testing, is marketed to the public as a way of testing fertility for women but that in fact is exactly what it does not do. AMH is linked to the number of egg sacs in a woman’s ovaries – a proxy for how many eggs a woman has remaining. Originally used for IVF to see what egg supply a woman might have for ovarian stimulation, AMH tests are increasingly being marketed as measuring general fertility. Research suggests AMH levels tests are a poor predictor of current or future fertility that’s because for as long as a woman has eggs, she is likely to be just as fertile as any other woman during each cycle. If her AMH is low, the main implication is that she and her partner should get on and try to have a baby.
A new study from researchers at the University of Sydney has taken a microscope to the marketing claims of such tests.
After pruning out irrelevant websites, the researchers were left with 27 sites that sold AMH tests. The countries where these sites originated were most commonly the United States (9 sites), India (6), the United Kingdom (4) and Australia (3). Test costs varied greatly with the cheapest test advertised at $16 and the most expensive at $214.
Concerningly, the researchers found that many of these websites made misleading claims about egg timer tests to their audience. 75% of sites said the test could help women understand their fertility and chances of conception, which the study’s authors say is at odds with current evidence. Many sites also said the test could predict the timing of menopause or detect premenopausal women, claims that are also not supported by current evidence.
The authors argue these tests could incorrectly reassure women, leading them to delay having a baby, while others may be anxious or stressed about their fertility based on a test that may not give them accurate information. They argue increased regulation of this market in countries like Australia, as well as education campaigns for people looking to conceive, could reduce some of the potential harms of these misleading marketing materials.