Fertility: Testing and Treatment
Conceiving can be one of the most exciting times in your life. But when you’re having trouble making it happen, it can feel like there’s no solution.
It's important to first get to the bottom of things before you jump to conclusions. Just because you and your partner can’t conceive at that moment doesn’t mean either of you are unable to do it at all. There are plenty of factors that can impact it, including weight, mental health and smoking.
If you and your partner have been unable to conceive for a year, you should talk to your doctor. They can determine which tests to perform to assess your fertility.
For men, your doctor will first review your detailed medical history and perform a physical exam where they check the genitals for any structural abnormalities or lumps. A semen analysis will most likely also be performed to see how many sperm are present and whether the sperm are shaped normally and moving properly.
Depending on the results of your exam and semen analysis, your doctor may want to perform additional tests, including:
- Hormone testing
- Genital ultrasound
- Genetic testing
For women, your doctor will also first review your detailed medical history and give you a physical exam to see if there are any underlying causes. They may run some more advanced tests that can specifically test fertility, including:
- Imaging tests – This is usually a pelvic ultrasound or X-ray that looks for conditions that may affect the uterus or fallopian tubes.
- Blood test – A blood test can measure the levels of hormones involved in ovulation, like prolactin or progesterone.
- Ovarian reserve testing – This helps determine the quality and quantity of eggs available for ovulation.
There are treatments that may be able to improve fertility, depending on your health. Keep in mind that fertility is a complex process and it can take time to find a treatment that works for you.
Prescription drugs are the most common treatment for people living with ovulation conditions. These medications work like your body’s natural hormones to trigger ovulation.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) can also help the body’s natural processes. One of the most common effective procedures is in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, mature eggs are collected and fertilized in a lab. The fertilized eggs are then inserted into the uterus. This process takes several weeks and often requires blood tests and hormone injections.
There’s also surgery, which can help correct some fertility issues in rare cases, like unblocking the fallopian tubes or removing polyps.
Male infertility can be similarly treated in a variety of ways, depending on your health. Treatment can include surgery to fix obstructions preventing sperm from being present in the ejaculate, medication to treat hormonal imbalances and ART, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection.
It’s important to get a medical diagnosis for fertility issues when you and your partner are having trouble conceiving. There may be other underlying causes that may be behind it.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for improving fertility. It’s important you talk with your doctor about what makes sense for you and your partner’s health.
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