Modern Fertility’s finger-prick kit is the latest at-home fertility test making family planning more affordable and accessible.
Fertility testing shouldn’t cost your nest egg.
Yet the one in eight couples struggling to get pregnant in America — and the women planning to start families later so that they can be more competitive in their careers — are paying upwards of $1,000 just to get basic information about their hormone levels and their ovarian reserves (the number of eggs you have left) in clinics before they can even begin considering egg freezing and in vitro fertilization — which cost tens of thousands of dollars, and are often not covered by insurance. As the fertility services market is expected to exceed $21 billion by 2020, some startups are making fertility testing more affordable and accessible by giving women the option to do it at home.
Modern Fertility is officially rolling out its at-home finger-prick test on Thursday that will analyze 10 hormones that impact women’s fertility for just $199, plus free shipping. Women clearly want to have this kind of personalized fertility information at their fingertips, as Modern Fertility did $70,000 in preorders when it first announced these testing kits last August. It also announced an additional $6 million in funding from Maveron and Union Square Ventures on Thursday, with participation by Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, SV Angel, #Angels, and other angel investors. The tests start being shipped out to early adopters on Thursday, and can now be ordered on modernfertility.com.
The women’s health company was launched early last year by Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, who had experience in tech and women’s health from working at 23andMe, Google, and Uber. Both women had noticed in their previous roles that many people were waiting until they were already experiencing fertility issues to become informed about their reproductive systems. And Vechery, 28, experienced the expense and confusion around fertility testing firsthand when she began researching when she should start planning a family a couple of years ago.
“Often a woman has to be trying to get pregnant for nine to 12 months, depending on her age, before her insurance will help cover it — if it covers it at all,” Vechery told Moneyish. And apart from the cost, “the problem we see in the world is that fertility education usually happens too late. We spend our lives initially coming at it from a place of preventing contraception, and then suddenly we switch the mindset to trying to get pregnant, and there’s not as many tools or resources.”
Modern Fertility’s tests are performed in CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) and CAP (College of American Pathologists) accredited Quest Diagnostic laboratories in 47 states. And the results will tell you your ovarian reserve; if you’re likely to hit menopause earlier or later than the American average (age 51); whether you’re ovulating normally; and if there are any red flags that might indicate future fertility issues. This data can help you make an informed decision as to whether egg freezing or IVF is right for you.
“We’re not replacing your doctor. These tests exist to have a more informed conversation with your doctor,” said Vechery.
Modern Fertility isn’t the only startup undercutting testing costs. Future Family offers at-home fertility tests, including a $149 Fertility Age Test that looks into three hormones, including the ones that indicate your ovarian reserve and how hard your body is working each cycle to produce an egg. Its $199 Fertility Age Plus test measures those same three hormones, plus four other thyroid hormones that impact fertility. Everlywell (seen on “Shark Tank”) features several at-home health tests, including postmenopausal hormone levels and metabolism tests. Its $399 comprehensive Women’s Health Test measures 11 different hormones to get a picture of your fertility profile. Everlywell also offers more targeted tests at lower price points, including a $159 Fertility test and a $79 Ovarian Reserve test.
These at-home tests shouldn’t replace actually seeing a fertility doctor, of course. For one thing, they are not analyzing a male reproductive partner’s sperm, which is half of the baby-making equation. Rather, Vechery said these at-home test results should be used to give women data to make informed decisions about what steps to take next. “There is no test that exists in science today that can magically predict when to start having kids,” she said, “but this is an important baseline to better predict future fertility, rather than just age.”
And opting to freeze your eggs or undergo IVF are costly decisions to make. Only 15 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia) have some type of mandate for infertility insurance coverage. The costs of egg freezing will vary by clinic, but women can expect to spend between $10,000 to $15,000 for all procedures and medications through the egg retrieval and freezing process, and then shell out another $500 to $1,200 per year in storage fees. As an elective procedure, it’s often not covered by insurance.
And it’s a high-stakes gamble, as only two to 12% of eggs are viable after being frozen, according to the Center For Genetics and Society. In fact, one in six women in a recent University of California, San Francisco study said they regretted freezing their eggs.
The eggs have to survive the thawing process, and then they need to be fertilized into viable embryos, and implanted into a woman’s uterus through in vitro fertilization (IVF) — an even costlier procedure that also comes with slim chances of success.
Some tech companies like Apple and Facebook now offer to cover a large part of the cost of the procedure for their employees. But most women and couples electing to try these procedures are bearing the brunt of the costs, themselves. A single round of IVF can cost upwards of $20,000, yet there’s only a 30% chance that a single IVF cycle will result in a successful pregnancy. Women often need to do a few cycles, which quickly adds up to tens of thousands of dollars. Still, more than 85,000 women in the U.S. undergo IVF each year.
Just like every woman has a different metabolism, she has a different fertility curve. We want to give her more information about her reproductive health, about her body, so she can use it to make the decision that’s right for her,” said Vechery. “We spend so much time planning our careers, planning our vacations — we plan so many things — but when we’re planning for starting a family, it can be a total black box.”
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