Getting Pregnant and Infertility: A Guide to Your First Fertility Exam
If you and your partner are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant, the first step in your journey towards pregnancy is fertility testing. Infertility testing is so important because it helps to assess the causes of infertility in your particular situation.
A typical initial fertility exam includes a variety of different tests that will evaluate you and your partner’s reproductive and overall health along with your medical history. This makes a fertility test a crucial step in your infertility treatment in order to increase fertility and your chances of getting pregnant.
What A Typical Infertility Exam Involves
A typical infertility exam involves a variety of components designed to evaluate and diagnose the causes of infertility and specifically whether male infertility or female infertility, or both, are hindering your chances of getting pregnant.
Because fertility testing is usually scheduled around a woman’s reproductive cycle, when scheduling fertility testing it is best to ask which specific tests will be performed and when the best time to conduct these tests are.
Usually, an initial infertility exam involves a meeting with either an OB/GYN or a reproductive endocrinologist to receive fertility advice.
The breakup of a typical infertility exam generally follows this structure:
- Medical history. Your fertility specialist will ask you to provide a complete overview of both you and your partner’s medical history. For example, a woman will be asked about when she had started her period, the regularity of her periods and whether she has or has ever had any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Her partner will also be asked about his medical history, including whether or not he has had any surgeries in the reproductive or abdominal area, whether he has had any injury to the testicles, whether he has any testicular disorders, and whether he has any STIs. This information will provide your fertility specialist with clues about different factors that might be causing your infertility and what the best types of infertility treatments might be for you and your partner.
- Physical exam. A physical exam is another important component of a fertility exam. A physical exam is comprised of several parts. A woman will typically undergo a pelvic exam, a breast exam, a Pap smear and in some cases, ultrasound. In addition, women will often be asked to undergo a blood test in order to check for levels of different hormones in her body. These tests are contingent upon a woman’s cycle: for example, cycle day 3 is the best day to test for estrogen, LH, FSH, prolactin, GnRH and TSH, while cycle day 21/post-ovulation is the best time to test for levels of progesterone. Testosterone and androgens can be checked for on any day of a woman’s cycle. Such fertility testing can also be used to check for infections and conditions such as anemia which can be affecting your chances of getting pregnant. A man will also undergo fertility testing during an initial fertility exam. He may also be asked to give a sperm sample in order for a semen analysis to be run.
- Supplementary information. In addition, a fertility exam is an opportunity to provide supplementary information about your menstrual cycle, including ovulation. You should bring with you an ovulation prediction kit, as well as any fertility chart that you may be using, as these fertility calculators can provide useful clues to the cause of infertility, as well as help to choose the best infertility treatments, such as fertility drugs or IVF for you and your partner. In addition, both you and your partner should inform your doctor if you are currently taking any medications, are using drugs or alcohol, and whether or not you are a smoker.
You should also take the time to ask your doctor any questions you might have about the infertility treatment process during your initial fertility exam, including questions about the cost of infertility treatment.
Your fertility exam will be followed by a second meeting which will provide you with the opportunity to discuss your test results with your fertility specialist. This will help you decide on what the best infertility treatment is for you and your partner.
While the process of fertility testing can be a long one that is stressful and emotionally draining, remember that a fertility exam is a crucial step in overcoming your infertility and working towards your goal of getting pregnant.
Find resources on coping with fertility.