I was thinking about this when I was walking through the park today, lots of joggers and cyclists out and about in the spring sunshine. Nothing surprising about that, winter is gone for a while and we can enjoy the outdoors. Lovely.
What I noticed was that just about everyone exercising was wearing some sort of technology. The runners with their heart rate monitors and music players, the cyclists measuring their wheel speed, turns per second, tyre pressure and so on all while talking into their phones.
This made me think about two main things. Firstly how little they are focusing on what they are actually doing, how much can you enjoy the lovely weather and outdoor environment if you are concentrating on an electronic monitor? How much of the freedom of cycling do you lose if you are measuring how many times your feet go round. I may be wrong but I think you probably get more relaxation and health benefits out of cycling if you just pedal and enjoy the weightlessness and freedom rather than examine every bodily and bicycle function.
The other issue is what on earth do people do with all the information? How many go home and spend time comparing their heart rates, maximum speeds and cadence rates week by week and month by month. I am sure Victoria Pendleton and Mo Farah do, but the rest of us? Did Daley Thompson wear a heart rate monitor and obsess over his max V02. I doubt it.
What’s this got to do with fertility? Test results.
The fertility industry measures just about every reproductive output imaginable. It is easy to test, just tick a box on a piece of paper and measure everything, hormone levels, organ sizes, follicle numbers, number of sperm etc. I was reading the excellent sperm factsheet on the infertilitynetworkuk website, where there are very interesting questions about actually what it is we hope to gather from a semen analysis. Depending on your laboratory, a healthy semen analysis may have 2-5% normal sperm, this means that up to 98% are abnormal. It is very difficult to persuade a couple that this is ok.
Everyone is (thankfully) different and test results will vary between people. Results will change and fluctuate for an individual. Semen analysis, as a good example, is extremely variable over time. Female hormone levels will fluctuate even if taken on the same day each cycle.
You made be very upset by some results other will be reassuring. If test results are not as positive you were expecting, remember that they are just a number to help plan your treatment options. Try not to focus on the number, its just the part of the journey that you need to go through before you start treatment.
But you cannot take test results in isolation. It is wrong to make treatment plans purely and simply on a number printed on a piece of paper. Your situation, symptoms, needs and wants are unique to you and are the deciding factors. Test results can help to indicate which options are best and the chances of them working.
Who knows what were the heart rate measurements of the gold medal-winning athletes from years ago, perhaps if they had been measured then they would never have been allowed to compete at the highest levels.