If you are having difficulties becoming pregnant you and your partner may consider seeking fertility treatments. There are a number of different fertility treatments available, ranging from IVF to IUI, but it is important to have proper testing performed before you choose a treatment. The post-coital test is one of the most commonly performed infertility tests. This fertility test can help to determine the quality of a woman’s cervical mucus and the motility of a man’s sperm. This information can then be used to decide on an appropriate method of fertility treatment.
What is the Post-Coital Test?
The post-coital fertility test (PCT) is a procedure used to help determine why a couple is having difficulty becoming pregnant. The test evaluates a woman’s cervical mucus, revealing information about its health and suitability for fertilization. The post-coital test also examines how well a man’s sperm functions in the cervical mucus. The test is performed just before ovulation, when a woman’s cervical mucus is most amenable to fertilization. Samples of the mucus are taken between 2 and 8 hours after intercourse.
Sometimes called the Sims-Huhner test, the post-coital test has been in use since the 1860s. Though its usefulness has been debated as of late, it is still one of the most popular tests used in fertility clinics today.
About Cervical Mucus
You may be wondering what all the fuss about cervical mucus is when it comes to getting pregnant. Well, your cervical mucus actually plays an important role in pregnancy.
Throughout your cycle, your cervical mucus changes in consistency, from thick and white, to stretchy and clear. Though it may seem easy to you, it is actually very difficult for sperm to make their way through this cervical mucus, especially at particular times during your cycle. During ovulation, your cervical mucus thins out, becoming stretchy and clear. It is during this time that sperm have the best chance of breaking through your cervical mucus.
By analyzing your cervical mucus during this time, your health care provider can determine how well suited it is to pregnancy. She can also see how well your partner’s sperm are at functioning in the mucus. If something appears to be wrong with the mucus or sperm, your health care provider can then make suggestions as to how to correct this.
Preparing for the Post-Coital Test
Preparing for the post-coital test is fairly straightforward. Your health care provider will give you more detailed information about what you need to do before the test, though. In general, couples undergoing PCT will need to:
- Monitor your basal body temperature (BBT) in order to determine when you are ovulating.
- Measure your levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) with a urine test. This will also help to determine when you are ovulating.
- Once you have determined that you are about ovulate, book an appointment for the post-coital test for the following day
- Have intercourse 2 to 8 hours before your appointment.
- Do not use lubricant during intercourse, and refrain from douching or tub bathing afterwards.
The post-coital test is actually a pretty simple procedure and is very similar to a pap test. It is done 2 to 8 hours after you have had intercourse.
- You will be asked to remove your clothes and lay down on an examination table.
- You will place your legs in the stirrups, exposing your vagina.
- Your heath care provider will insert a metal or plastic speculum into your vagina. This helps to expose your cervix.
- A sample of cervical mucus is collected and transferred to a slide for examination.
Results of your post-coital test should be available within a day or so. Your cervical mucus will be analyzed for its consistency and texture. It will also be examined for evidence of moving sperm.
If your test is normal, this means that your health care provider has not noticed anything out of the ordinary about your cervical mucus. Normal post-coital cervical mucus will contain healthy sperm that is moving forwards, towards the uterus. Your mucus will also be able to stretch at least 2 inches and will dry in a fern-like pattern.
Abnormal post-coital test results may indicate why you are having difficulties conceiving. If your mucus cannot be stretched 2 inches, or if it doesn’t dry in a fern-like pattern, it may not be allowing sperm to swim through, preventing conception. An abnormal test may also show clumping of sperm or a large amount of dead sperm.
After the Post-Coital Test
Once the results are in from your post-coital test, you and your partner can use the information to help make an informed decision about further fertility treatments. Normal test results generally indicate that you will be able to conceive naturally – you might just need to keep trying!
Abnormal test results may mean that other treatments will be needed to help you conceive. IVF, IUI, or certain fertility drugs may be a good solution. Speak with your health care provider about these options.