Fertility tests are designed to help couples struggling to conceive. They are used to assess for any problems the couple may have in order to initiate corrective measures for it. Being subjected to fertility testing can help couples make decisions regarding their reproductive health.
Fertility Testing for Women
The rule of thumb is that women younger than 35 years of age, she should be referred to after one year of infertility; if older than 35 years, after 6 months of infertility. Referral is recommended sooner for older women because of possible age limitations associated with adoption, IVF and embryo transfer which are common alternatives to natural childbearing.
Before fertility testing, a thorough health history and physical examination is usually done. History includes assessment of the general health, nutrition, use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, congenital health problems, illnesses or previous operations, past and current occupation and work habits. Women are also asked about their age of menarche, length, regularity and frequency of menstrual periods, amount of flow, dysmenorrhea, history of contraceptive use and of any previous pregnancies or abortions.
Female Fertility Testing Methods
To assess the ovulation pattern of the woman, several techniques can be performed. Some of these are the basal body temperature method, cervical mucus method, or through the use of ovulation test and predictor kits.
Another test involves measuring follicle stimulating hormones or luteinizing hormone levels in the blood. This is usually performed on the third day of your cycle. Other hormones which contribute to the reproductive process can also be assessed such as estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, free T3, total and free testosterone, DHEAS and androstenedione.
A cervical mucus test assesses the quality of the mucus to determine whether or not it is ideal for the sperm to swim in. A bacterial screening test can also be performed in conjunction with this test.
An ultrasound is indicated when assessing for the thickness of the uterus, monitoring follicle development, and checking for conditions of the uterus and ovaries. Patency of the fallopian tubes is assessed through a sonohysterography or hysterosalpingography. These procedures are performed to inspect the uterus for abnormalities such as septal deviation or presence of a myoma. Both are also minimally invasive, although the later uses a radiopaque medium in order to help visualize the reproductive parts.
An endometrial uterine biopsy may be used to reveal an endometrial problem such as luteal phase defect. This procedure is now being performed less commonly, having been replaced with serum progesterone level evaluations. The biopsy is usually done 2 or 3 days before the expected menstrual flow. After anesthesia is induced, a thin probe and biopsy forceps are inserted through the cervix to obtain sample tissue.
Another procedure being used as fertility testing method is hysteroscopy, which is the visual inspection of the uterus through the insertion of a hysteroscope, a thin, hollow tube through the cervix. This is helpful if uterine adhesions or other abnormalities were discovered on the hysterosalpingogram. Laparoscopy is the introduction of a thin, hollow, lighted tube through a small incision in the abdomen, just under the umbilicus, to examine the position and state of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is rarely done unless the results of utero-salpingography are abnormal.
Fertility Testing for Men
Fertility problems are not solely found in women. Around 50% of infertility problem causes come from the males, and being so, fertility testing should matter as much to men as it does for women.
Male Fertility Tests
The most common test for men is semen analysis. By obtaining a fresh sample of semen, sperm count is analyzed, as well as their different qualities, appearance, and mobility. This will help determine if the man’s sperm are in top shape for fertilization. In order for this semen analysis to be successful, the man is requested to abstain from ejaculation for 2-4 days prior the test. On the day of the analysis, he provides a fresh sample of semen and this is tested immediately, or the specimen can be frozen for testing later on.
Aside from taking a thorough physical examination and medical history, other fertility tests for men include urinalysis, complete blood count, blood typing, serologic test for syphilis, a test for human immunodeficiency virus, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, protein-bound iodine, cholesterol level, and gonadotropin, prolactin, and testosterone levels.
Further tests for men include sperm penetration assay and antisperm antibody testing. The indications for these tests are determined at the discretion of a physician.
Knowing these methods are readily available to couples who are experiencing difficulties in getting pregnant really helps out a lot. Fertility testing methods help couples learn what to expect from a possible pregnancy, ease anxiety and help answer questions. With these information in readily on hand, steps can be taken to pave the way towards expected pregnancy