Infertility Treatment Goes Over The Counter with "The Stork"
Fertility issues are often very tense. Couples with expectations face month after month of disappointment. They watch their friends conceive with seeming ease and face probing questions from the people they love. Single women and lesbian couples who want to have a child face stigma and shy away from seeking help from medical providers.
Yet, in this age of enhanced information and autonomy, people are often quite informed before they seek medical care for fertility issues. While some steps in this process require sophisticated medical intervention, some are relatively simple.
This week, the FDA approved The Stork OTC as the first conception assistance device available over the counter. This blog will cover The Stork and it's indications, discussing also the controversy putting this devise in the hands of the public without professional medical counsel.
The Stork OTC
The Stork OTC is a mechanical device designed to get sperm to the entrance of a woman's cervix. The device consists of a cap which goes over the cervix and an applicator to get the cap in place. Semen is placed into the cap and then the cap is placed over the cervix for up to six hours when it is removed with the cord attached to the cap. According to the marketing literature, The Stork combines the familiar elements of a condom-like cap and a tampon-like applicator.
Does It Work?
The Stork OCT provides a method of conception known as intracervical insemination (ICI). This method basically puts a high concentration of sperm at the cervical entryway to the uterus to aid in fertilization of the egg. In a sense, the device acts as a guide, puts more sperm where they need to go and shortens the journey for the sperm to enhance fertilization. In addition, this method can help to avoid a potentially harsh acidic environment for the sperm in a women's vagina.
As a method practiced for years, various studies have documented the increased rate of conception when ICI is utilized. Some studies have even shown similar results between ICI and intrauterine insemination (IUI) where the sperm is put directly into the uterus. The literature provided by The Stork OTC quotes a success rate of 10-20% which is consistent with ICI methods. Issues with these rates, however, include the sample population and underlying problems impeding success with conception.
Who Should Use "The Stork?"
The Stork is a logical "next step" when a couple determines that there is a problem with conception. Traditionally, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after 12 months or regular intercourse without a birth control method. When I meet with couples, usually a little education can make a significant impact.
A women is considered fertile for 48 hours around her ovulation. As such, it is paramount to know when ovulation occurs. The classic way to determine this is to estimate when the next period will be and subtract 14 days from this. Otherwise, thermometers can help by measuring that slight increase in temperature that occurs with ovulation due to the release of substances called inflammatory mediators in the process.
Who May Benefit: The Stork, and ICI as a whole, is indicated for fertility issues involving low sperm count, sperm motility (reduced swimming ability) issues, harsh vaginal environment due to pH imbalance and unexplained infertility in general. It is also indicated when conception is desired without the act of sexual intercourse as with a scenario involving a fresh sperm sample donor.
Who Should Use Caution: Women with known issues that may cause more involved causes of infertility should likely seek medical consultation. Such would include endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, previous pelvic infection (chlamydia, gonorrhea, pelvic inflammatory disease), fibroids or a history of radiation treatments.
The Pros and Cons
Cost: Sadly, one knee-jerk thought that seems to come with infertility is cost. Indeed, infertility treatments can accumulated into the tens of thousands of dollars when it gets to vitro fertilization and other costly procedures involved with this process. And these costs are not usually covered by health insurance policies. While the retail cost of The Stork OTC seems steep at $79.99 (CVS Health), this is relatively small compared to initial testing and a doctor consultation.
Privacy and Comfort: On one side, The Stork OTC offers a somewhat effective enhancement to fertility that can be performed discreetly in-home.
Contributing Issues: On the other hand, a medical consultation and testing (male and female) can sometimes pinpoint the problem, directing therapy which may not include ICI.
Time Until Results; Another factor which often enters the mix is time. There are circumstances where clocks are ticking with fertility and other personal issues. For this reason, hitting the problem with more aggressive investigation and intervention may be appropriate.
The Stork OTC is now available over the counter to assist in conception. This device provides the user the possibility of intracervical insemination without medical consultation. While this method is helpful with some causes of infertility issues, it is not effective for others. More information on The Stork OTC can be found at the company's website http://www.storkotc.com/ .
1. First OTC Conception Assistance Cleared, MPR, September 24, 2014.