Test could aid in natural family planning process
By Deborah Gyapong
Photo caption: Dr. Rene Leiva, a family physician in Ottawa and professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa seeks funding for a pilot study of a simple, at-home ovulation test that will help in natural family planning and infertility treatment.
An Ottawa physician is seeking funding to study a simple ovulation test that could help to treat infertility as well as aid natural family planning.
The scientific research will be a pilot study of urinary test strips to measure a metabolite (PdG) of progesterone that surges upon ovulation. “[The tests] will definitely be a big help for infertility,” said Dr. Rene Leiva, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and researcher at the Bruyère Research Institute.
“This test could also be explored to see if there is any role in natural family planning,” he said. “It will help those women have extra confidence to know whether they have ovulated or not.”
Dr. Leiva pointed out that up to 16 per cent of women aged 18-44 experience infertility. “As part of assessment for infertility, in the initial stages in primary care, it’s very important to elucidate one thing: whether the woman has ovulated or not,” he said.
The best way to determine ovulation currently is by ultrasound or a blood test, as well as through ovulation predictor kits testing for the Luteinizing Hormone Surge (LHS). The PdG urine test strips, which have already been produced in the United States but are not cleared for use by Health Canada, could provide a much simpler and less expensive way to track ovulation, Dr. Leiva said.
The Bruyère Research Institute will provide about $3,600 of “in kind” services for the study; Dr. Leiva said he needs to raise about $15,000 for the pilot study that would involve 20 participants.
Lisa Deteilleux, 36, a mother of three children aged five, four and one, teaches women how to track their fertility cycles using the Creighton Model Fertility Care system.
Over the past 10 years, she has helped 105 women learn to chart their cycles in a method that includes tracking the consistency of mucus that changes around the time of ovulation.
Through Dr. Leiva, she has tried the PdG test strips.
“They were easy to use,” she said. “It’s the same as using a pregnancy test.”
“I can tell it’s a really good tool to use if you want to keep track of your fertility,” Deteilleux said. “Right now, what Dr. Leiva is doing is sending patients to do blood work.”
“You can see that’s quite the hassle because you have to go to a lab to do the testing,” she said. “If you can do it at home, it’s much more convenient.”
“Not everyone has a textbook cycle,” she said. “I’ve seen some women whose charts are unpredictable. With a progesterone test it really gives them more confidence.”
Deteilleux said about half of the women who come to her use charting for addressing infertility.
Although it’s mainly Catholics who prefer NFP, Deteilleux said she has clients who are not even Christian. “They want to use something more natural; they don’t want to use anything artificial,” she said. “It’s really empowering for a woman and really proactive for taking care of your own health.”
“The whole point is to create and promote and develop options for women to take control of their bodies and their fertility,” said Dr. Leiva.
“The beauty of these tests is they are portable,” he said. “You could probably use them in developing countries. Right now they are not cheap, but my expectation is they will become cheap if they become more popular and the manufacturer produces more and more.”
Dr. Leiva said the pilot study will “serve as a springboard for a greater one.”
“It’s always good to do a pilot study to get a solid source of clinical data that will help you develop a more sophisticated study further on,” he said. “Often they produce good advice on how you can improve the protocol for further studies.”
The test strips have only been on the market for less than two months, Dr. Leiva said, and his study will be the first. A colleague in France will be doing a similar pilot study there.
“I’m responsible for Canada,” he said. He hopes the test will help the process of getting Health Canada approval “because this will help improve natural ways for women to know about their fertility.”
“It’s not just for Catholics, who have a faith interest in family planning, but for anyone who is interested in natural ways to know about conception, fertility and family planning,” he said.
More information on the Bruyère Research Institute can be found at www.bruyere.org.