Testing for Infertility

Most experts suggest that women under the age of 35 actively try to get pregnant for at least 1 year before they call their doctor. Women 35 or older should see their doctor after 6 months of trying. A woman’s chance of having a baby decreases rapidly every year after the age of 30.

If you and your partner are experiencing infertility, a doctor will do an infertility checkup. This involves a physical exam. The doctor will also ask for both partners’ health and sexual histories. Sometime this can find the problem. However, most of the time, the doctor will need to do more tests.

In men, doctors usually begin by testing the semen. They look at the number shape, and movement of the sperm. Sometimes doctors also suggest testing the level of a man’s hormones.

In women, the first step is to find out if she is ovulating each month. There are a few ways to do this. A woman can track her ovulation at home by:

  • Writing down changes in her morning body temperature for several months
  • Writing down how her cervical mucus looks for several months
  • Using a home ovulation test kit (available at drug or grocery stores)

Doctors can also check ovulation with blood tests, or they can do an ultrasound of the ovaries. If ovulation is normal, there are other fertility tests available.

Some common tests of fertility in women include:

  • Hysterosalpingography (HIS-tur-oh-sal-ping-GOGH-ru-fee): This is an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Doctors inject a special dye into the uterus through the vagina. They dye shows up in the x-ray. Doctors can then watch to see if the dye moves freely through the uterus and fallopian tubes. This can help them find any physical blocks that may be causing infertility. Blocks in the system can keep the egg from moving from the fallopian tube to the uterus. A block could also keep the sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Laparoscopy (lap-uh-ROS-kuh-pee): A minor surgery to see inside the abdomen. The doctor does this with a small tool and a light called a laparoscope (LAP-uh-roh-skohp). A doctor will make a small cut in the lower abdomen and inserts the laparoscope that allows them to check the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus for disease and physical problems. Doctors can usually find scarring and endometriosis by laparoscopy.

Finding the cause of infertility can be a long and emotional process. It may take time to complete all the needed tests. So do not worry if the problem is not found right away.