There might be a few different reasons why people decide to get a fertility test. If you’ve been having difficulty conceiving, if you’re a woman starting a family over the age of 35, or if you received treatment for a condition that has been implicated in low fertility – these are just a few of the reasons people get fertility tests.
In the modern day, more and more couples (and singles) are choosing to delay starting a family until a bit later in life when they’re less fertile, which has resulted in an increased interest in fertility tests and treatments. Family planning might mean getting a fertility test when you’re young to avoid any surprises once you start trying. When you have a good idea of the state of your reproductive health, you can start taking measures to increase your odds of getting pregnant.
As we will discuss, some causes of infertility can be treated. Further, there are more options now than ever before for people who cannot get pregnant, like in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy along with adoption.
So, let’s take a look at how your genes might influence your reproductive health, and some of the different types of fertility tests out there.
Symptoms of Low Fertility
The obvious sign that something might be wrong with your reproductive system is not getting pregnant, but how long should you be expected to try before going for a fertility test?
Generally, if you are under the age of 35 and have been having unprotected sex consistently for at least a year and have not become pregnant, it’s worth making an appointment with your doctor to explore the reasons why. If you are over 35, you should visit your doctor after 6 months of trying. If you are over 40 and trying to get pregnant, it is recommended that you talk with your doctor right away about a fertility evaluation.
Your period can also be a telling sign. If it has been irregular, exceptionally long or very short, absent or especially painful, that might be a symptom of a disease potentially related to infertility. There are other hormonal imbalance symptoms associated with infertility, such as low sex drive and skin changes.
There are also medical factors that contribute towards or could be a sign of possible infertility, such as STDs, treatment for cancer, or previous miscarriages. If any of these things are included in your medical history, you might want to be examined before waiting the recommended time frame to discuss it with your doctor.
What to Expect from a Fertility Test
Your doctor might have special instructions or preparatory steps they want you to take before you come in for your test. It’s important to follow these instructions to the letter because some hormone treatments or medications might interfere with the test results. Your doctor will schedule your fertility test during certain phases of your cycle depending on the kind of fertility test you go in for, e.g. cycle day 3 for E2, FSH, LH baseline levels during the follicular phase.
The subject of fertility is a delicate one, and most doctors are mindful of that fact and will be sensitive during the test procedure. They will ask you very personal questions related to your lifestyle, any medications you’re taking, illicit drugs you might have in your system, your sexual history and your current sex life. It’s important to be completely honest with your doctor. Lying or leaving things out that you are embarrassed by might or think are irrelevant could prevent your doctor from diagnosing the issue and getting you the treatment you need. Remember that the information you share is confidential.
If you are going through fertility testing with a partner, bring them with you to each appointment, or as many as you can, so that everyone is on the same page. If you are embarking on this journey as a single woman, it might be worth it to bring a friend or relative with you for emotional support.
Testing Your Reproductive Organs
Fertility testing generally falls into one of two categories: testing your reproductive organs or testing your hormone levels. They may be done simultaneously.
A woman’s reproductive organs are her uterus, fallopian tubes and her ovaries. There are a few different tests that a fertility doctor will take to determine that a woman’s reproductive system is functioning the way it is supposed to.
One is called a hysterosalpingogram. To perform this test, liquid dye is injected into the uterus through a woman’s vagina. The dye will fill both the uterus and the fallopian tubes and x-rays will be taken. Your doctor will then examine the x-rays to look for any defects or blockages that might be obstructing an egg’s natural pathway into the uterus.
A transvaginal ultrasound is similar to the above test in that it gives doctors an image of a woman’s reproductive organs. The difference here is it uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of the uterus and ovaries and no liquid dye is injected.
During a hysteroscopy, a camera on a flexible ‘wand’ is inserted into the cervix to examine the uterus. During a hysterectomy, tissue samples may be taken for evaluation.
Finally, a laparoscopy is a minor surgery that uses a camera to examine the entire pelvis region. Laparoscopies are commonly used to diagnose conditions such as endometriosis.
If the testing of your reproductive organs comes back normal, your doctor will want to make sure you have adequate hormonal levels to allow for pregnancy. A blood and/or urine sample will be taken to test for your ovarian function, development of eggs and ovulation.
Women produce different hormones related to fertility: follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone and progesterone.
Luteinizing hormone levels quickly rise right before you ovulate. Tracking your cycle can help you predict when you are due to ovulate. It helps control the menstrual cycle and triggers the release of an egg from the ovary.
Progesterone is the hormone that rises after the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation). If you become pregnant, continuous rise in progesterone levels prepare to support a developing baby. Follicle-stimulating hormone level is in the highest right before the release of an egg from the ovary. FSH stimulates the growth of eggs in the ovaries and triggers your ovaries to release an egg for fertilization.
High levels of FSH and LH in day 3 of the menstrual cycle are an indication of low fertility. Your doctor can check your levels of different hormones via a blood test. The blood tests that test your hormone levels can reveal information about your fertility.
Is Infertility Genetic?
There is a link of infertility to genetics. This means that there are genetic factors that can contribute to infertility (the inability to get pregnant) or subfertility (difficulty getting pregnant).
That being said, there are some medical conditions that can make it hard to get pregnant, and they are passed down genetically. Two of the most common ones are:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: This condition affects the way the ovaries work. It involves irregularity in menstrual periods, and excess androgen levels. The ovaries become enlarged and develop fluid-filled sacs, making it difficult to conceive.
- Endometriosis: Another reason a woman might struggle to conceive is that the tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus is growing elsewhere, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Taking a DNA test from CircleDNA can tell whether you have any genetic predispositions to any conditions that might inhibit your ability to get pregnant. DNA testing can be considered one of the first steps in fertility testing and family planning.