Making the Diagnosis – 6 Common Infertility Tests
Do you suspect that you and your partner are having fertility issues?
If so, your next step is to speak with your OB/GYN and get referrals to fertility specialists in your area. In most cases, we recommend couples see a fertility specialist if the woman is 34 or younger and has tried to conceive for 12 months or more. For women 35 years and older, we recommend seeing a specialist after trying unsuccessfully for six months or longer. You may also opt to see a specialist if you have had more than three miscarriages in a row.
6 of the Most Common Infertility Tests
Once you get to this point, a fertility specialist will want to run a full fertility workup on both you and your partner to see where the complication(s) originates. This series of tests can raise alarm bells when couples falsely envision multiple, expensive tests that their insurance may not cover. DO NOT BE ALARMED!
In most cases, couples will only need a few diagnostic procedures performed to run a semen analysis in the male and to evaluate the ovulatory, uterine and tubal status in the female, none of which are expensive. However, there are situations where further testing and diagnostic evaluation may be necessary, in which case we will recommend additional testing.
Here is a list of the six most common infertility tests:
- A thorough physical examination. While not necessarily a test, a full physical can play a critical role in early infertility testing since the health of the mother is integral to fertility and a healthy pregnancy. Issues like obesity, diabetes, lifestyle habits, etc., may help us develop a fairly straightforward fertility plan before moving on to more complicated and expensive testing or medical procedures.
- Sperm and Semen Analysis. Typically, male infertility is the result of low sperm count, abnormally shaped sperm, and/or sperm that don’t swim as well as they should. All of these can be evaluated with a sperm analysis. If there are no sperm present at all, the doctor may recommend further exams/diagnostic procedures to see if there are any blockages, anatomical abnormalities, or genetic issues that prevent the sperm from showing up in the semen after ejaculation.
- Ovarian Reserve Testing (ORT). The remaining tests will be performed on the female half of the equation. First and foremost, your doctor will perform a test to see if you have a low egg reserve. The doctor will test FSH and estradiol levels on the third day of your cycle. You will be given a dose of clomiphene citrate, which stimulates egg maturity/release, and then she’ll test FSH and estradiol levels again on day 10 to see if further tests are required.
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG). This is a special version of an X-Ray which will provide a detailed image of your uterus and fallopian tubes. Your doctor will use dye to test whether or not your fallopian tubes are blocked, which is one of the most common reasons for infertility and can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from congenital abnormalities to endometriosis or scarring.
- Ultrasound. An ultrasound is a relatively inexpensive test that can provide a wealth of information, including any abnormalities in the shape of your cervix or uterus, the presence of endometriosis, polyps or fibroid tumors, and multiple other anatomical, structural or medical issues that may be a source of infertility.
- Laparoscopy/Hysteroscopy. In both procedures, doctors use a very small camera attached to very small surgical instruments to remove, repair or amend any anatomical or structural issues in the fallopian tubes or uterus that may be causing fertility. Successful repair of these issues may be all you require.
- Cervical mucus test and postcoital test. These tests are done to test the quality and production of your cervical mucus, as well as how it reacts in the presence of your partner’s sperm. Sometimes, there isn’t enough mucus to form the web-like structure that assists sperm to their target. In other cases, the chemical balance in the mucus acts like a spermicide, either killing the sperm or compromising its shape and/or its ability to swim.
Are you concerned about your ability to conceive a baby? Schedule an appointment with RRC and we’ll follow a conservative and standardized approach to determine the cause with as few tests as possible.
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.