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The Various Approaches to Testing Female Fertility

This article explores the different options women have to test their fertility. These include visiting a doctor, the possible treatments they may prescribe, and ways of testing at-home.

June 22, 2020
Maura McLay

If you and your partner are under the ages of 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for 12 months without success -- or you are over 35 and have been unsuccessful for six months, it may be time to consult a fertility doctor. 

The important thing to note here is that you and your partner are having regular sex during the 6-12 months you’ve been trying to get pregnant. If you have, and still haven’t become pregnant or cannot stay pregnant, it is time for you and your partner to go to a fertility expert together. 

There will be a number of options and tests to help determine female fertility. In this section we will cover: 

  • What to Expect From a Fertility Doctor 
  • At Home Testing Methods 
  • What Are My Treatment Options?
  • How to Cope With Infertility 

How Do I Know I’m Infertile?

What to Expect From a Fertility Visit 

Couple visits a doctor for fertility consultation
Couple first visiting a fertility doctor. Image courtesy of WINfertility.

The only way to know for certain if you are infertile is to meet with a healthcare professional and receive infertility testing. Signs of infertility are not being able to get pregnant or stay pregnant, but infertility cannot be confirmed without further testing -- so don’t automatically assume that you are infertile. 

When going to a doctor you have some options -- you can see your primary care physician, gynecologist or fertility specialist. No matter where you go -- you should prepare to be asked questions about your sexual habits and period history. Some examples of questions may be: 

  • Medical history 
  • History of birth control
  • History of sexually transmitted diseases
  • How often do you have sex?
  • Have you been pregnant before?
  • Have you had an ectopic pregnancy?
  • Have you been diagnosed with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease? 
  • Have you had irregular, missed periods or spotting in between periods?
  • Have you had changes in blood flow or clotting?
  • Have you previously seen a fertility doctor and did you receive treatment?

Your doctor will then do a physical exam. This will consist of a pelvic exam and possibly an ultrasound of your uterus and ovaries as well as hormonal blood tests. You may also be tested for thyroid problems. Your doctor might ask you to begin tracking your ovulation patterns -- this will be discussed in the at-home test section. 

These first exams may not find the answer to your fertility problems -- so keep in mind testing may need to take a few months before your doctor can confirm what is causing the problem. 

Your doctor may order tests on the reproductive organs -- uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, because all need to be functioning properly in order to achieve a pregnancy. These tests may be: 

  • Hysterosalpingogram -- This is a series of x-rays of the uterus and fallopian tubes. A doctor will inject dye into your uterus and watch how it moves through the uterus and fallopian tubes. It will confirm if the uterus has any defects or if the fallopian tubes are blocked.
  • Transvaginal Ultrasound -- An ultrasound wand will be inserted into the vagina to view reproductive organs and check for problems within them.
  • Hysteroscopy -- A camera on the end of a flexible tube will be inserted through the cervix to check for problems within the uterus. A doctor can take tissue samples as well. 
  • Laparoscopy -- Small incisions are made on the stomach to insert tools and a camera. This will allow a doctor to examine the entire pelvis and correct medical problems such as endometriosis. 

Other tests that check the number of eggs a woman has and presence of certain hormone levels in the body may be done as well.

How Can I Test Fertility on My Own? 

Possible Solutions Found at Home

Chart that shows a spike in LH hormone levels during ovulation
Example of how LH hormone levels in the body increase during ovulation. Image courtesy of Diagnostic-Testkit.

At-home fertility tests for women can help find a solution for unsuccessful pregnancy by tracking ovulation. This could be a way of telling if not being able to get pregnant was simply a matter of having sex during the wrong time in your menstural cycle. 

Ovulation occurs in the middle of your cycle -- on day 14 if you have a 28 day cycle, but women can have anywhere from a 28 to 32 day cycle. For this reason you may need to do some tests to tell when you’re ovulating. 

You can purchase an LH ovulation test, which is a urine test taken the same way as an at home pregnancy test. LH is a hormone that shows up in high levels right before ovulation. 

You can also keep track of changes in cervical mucus. Before ovulation cervical mucus changes into a more clear, watery, stretchy and slippery mucus. 

You can also practice taking your body temperature every day. Just after ovulation occurs, basal body temperature experiences a slight increase. By tracking your temperature for a few months you will learn the length of your menstrual cycle and be able to determine when you ovulate. 

Your fertility doctor may also ask you to keep track of this information to aid in determining the cause of infertility. 


What Are My Treatment Options?

Fertility treatments are usually carried out by a fertility specialist once a diagnosis has been made -- your PCP or gynecologist may refer you to one. 

An important thing to note is -- there is no one type of fertility treatment that is “the best.” The best type of treatment for you will be based on the diagnosis of the fertility doctor. 

Some treatments can be lifestyle changes, medication, hormone therapy, or surgical procedures. You may also be recommended for intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) -- these are two of the more common treatments. If there is a problem with your eggs, you may choose to find an egg donor. 

How to Cope With Infertility?

Understand There is No Magic Solution

Couple visits a psychologist to receive counseling on how to cope with infertility
Some couples may choose to seek help from a psychologist. 

If you find out that you are infertile, this is an extremely difficult determination to cope with. There are some helpful tips that can help you cope with the situation. 

Understand that there are normal responses to infertility. You don’t have to feel like you are the problem -- you can seek out help from a psychologist or counselor as this is often a serious crisis in the lifetime of a couple. 

You may feel disconnected from your family or partner and become disinterested in things that used to make you happy. Try to find a way back. 

Understand that emotions are normal -- it is okay to feel angry and cry. Similarly, understand that your partner may have different emotions and cope differently. Be sure to improve your communication and tell your partner how they can help you. 

Dealing with fertility problems can be a long journey to finding the right answer. Be sure to remember that you are not alone and you can seek help either from a healthcare professional or through at home tests with a number of different treatment options. 


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