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Infertility Testing—The Basics

By Tamera Nutter, RN, MSN

Infertility Testing—The Basics

Infertility is diagnosed when a couple has tried, without any barriers, to conceive for a year without a resulting viable pregnancy. Many couples will find themselves unable to achieve a planned pregnancy and about 1 in 6 women who are trying to achieve pregnancy with their partner can’t get or stay pregnant.

If this describes the scenario between you and your partner, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider or a fertility specialist about infertility testing. Infertility issues are found equally among men as women.

Treating for & Treating Infertility

The most common infertility treatments for men are medications to correct hormonal issues and surgery to correct anatomical problems. Among women, infertility treatments can also include medications to correct hormonal problems, and surgery for any physical issues.

Often, neither partner is determined to have an identifiable infertility problem. In these circumstances, most fertility specialists advise beginning with the easiest approaches to conception and advance to the more invasive procedures.

If those efforts fail, assisted reproductive technologies (ART) can be considered and this includes artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Here are the basic issues and tests you could expect as you strive to conceive:

 

Common Infertility Problems

Men:

  • Problems that affect the movement or number of sperm, including varicocele

Women:

  • Issues with ovulation, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Uterine abnormalities, including fibroids

 

When to Consider Infertility Testing

  • When either partner up in through their early 30s after 1 year of actively trying to conceive, without contraceptive use and with no pregnancy achieved
  • For partner’s in their mid-30s and older after 6 months of actively trying to conceive, without contraceptive use and with no pregnancy achieved
  • For either partner when there are known medical issues that may affect fertility

 

Typical Fertility Tests

For men:               

  • Semen evaluation to determine the number, shape and movement of sperm
  • Blood testing for hormone levels including testosterone
  • Urological evaluation including a physical exam for genitalia evaluation

For women:  

  • Ovulation testing: Typically urine or blood tests to determine if ovulation is occurring, if the different phases of menstruation are optimal for conception, and if hormone levels are within normal range; your ovarian reserve—the quantity and quality of your eggs—may also be checked early in your cycle
  • Endometrial biopsy: A small sample of the uterine lining is collected to assess if it can support a pregnancy
  • Hysterosalpingogram: Which involves inserting dye through the cervix and then x-rays to check the if the fallopian tubes are blocked or open, and the shape of the uterus
  • Hysteroscopy: Insertion of a small camera through the cervix to examine the uterus for any abnormalities
  • Laparoscopy: Surgical procedure to examine the pelvis, looking for problems such as endometriosis or adhesions

 

 

 

Tamera Nutter, RN, MSN, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.


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