Fertility testing is often viewed with dread. It’s the acknowledgement that something might be officially “wrong.” It can feel like a concession, like you’re giving in to something you’d rather pretend wasn’t happening in the first place, and some couples feel like there’s only one place to go from here – IVF.
In fact, fertility testing can be viewed a gift. The stress of failed pregnancy test after pregnancy test leads to an ever-growing cloud of mystery; what the heck’s going on here, or not going on here? Fertility testing shines a bright light into those dark clouds, often providing very clear-cut answers that lead to a more defined pathway toward your target goal – giving birth to a healthy, beautiful baby.
The Gift of Fertility Testing –Get Answers to Your Questions
On our Roadmap to Fertility, we made March the month couples should begin exploring the reasons why they aren’t conceiving. Fertility testing is the most transparent way to do that. While a healthy body and lifestyle are certainly important, they aren’t the only grounds for conceiving a baby.
Many bodies that seem perfectly healthy on the outside can wind up having unforeseen issues taking place on the inside – and these issues can make it incredibly difficult to conceive a baby, or to bring a baby through a full-term pregnancy.
So, let’s take a look at how fertility testing works.
- Schedule a consultation with a fertility clinic. There are some things that can be done by your OB/GYN. For example, your gynecologist may be able to diagnose you with endometriosis or PCOS if they know exactly what to look for. In either case, you’ll still be referred to a fertility specialist if you are having problems getting pregnant. OB/GYNs may diagnose certain anatomical abnormalities as well. However, they do not have the ability to diagnose male infertility factors.
So, for example, a woman with endometriosis might decide to have surgery to remove her endometrial lesions, increasing her chances of conceiving. Then, she’ll go home and try to get pregnant for another three-, six- or nine-months – but what good does this do if her partner has low sperm count? A fertility clinic runs tests on both partners, ensuring you have all the information you need to create a fertility plan.
- Test both partners. That segues straight to the point that both partners should be tested. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the onus of conception is misplaced almost entirely on the female’s shoulders. In fact, statistics show that the cause of infertility is shared by both sexes. In the 12% of married, American adults who have a hard time conceiving, the cause of infertility is equally divided among men and women (1/3rd male, 1/3rd female and 1/3rd “unknown”). For this reason, it’s best to have both partners tested. Again, even if the female has an existing infertility diagnosis, it’s best to test the male partner as well to make sure we are dealing with healthy sperm.
- Fertility testing for men. Fertility testing for men will include:
—A routine physical. This is always the first step in any exam, helping us to determine if there are additional risk factors to consider.
—Semen analysis. This is best done at a fertility clinic. While the lab-techs your general practitioner uses are trained at determining whether sperm count is normal, the technicians are not as well-trained at identifying abnormal sperm morphology (shape) and motility (movement. This means the male might get the green light, when in fact his “healthy” sperm count is laden with unhealthy sperm – and this will set you back.
—Urinalysis. A urine sample identifies whether there is an underlying infection and looks for sperm in the urine, which can signal retrograde ejaculation.
- Fertility testing for women. For women, the testing is a little more complex. Female fertility testing typically includes:
—Your age. The reality is that women 38-years old and older have a rapidly ticking biological clock. Their ovarian reserve (the amount of eggs left) is lower and the quality of the remaining eggs is poorer. Most of the time, you move straight to IVF at this point.
—Physical exam. This is always important for establishing a baseline of health and to look for physical or verbal indications of known infertility causes.
—Ovarian reserve testing. A combination of ultrasound and hormone tests via blood draws can confirm how many potential eggs a woman has left. Women with lower ovarian reserves have more limited fertility treatment options than those with higher reserves.
—Anatomical analysis. Ultrasounds and hysterosalpingogram (HSG) are used to get a look at your pelvic anatomy, identifying any potential anatomical issues. Abnormal results of either of these may lead to further tests.
The results of fertility tests almost always provide the answers couples need in order to get pregnant. And what better gift is there than that?
Are you having a hard time getting pregnant? Reach out to RRC and schedule a consultation. We’ll let you know whether fertility testing is the next step for your parenting plans.
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