Most people will visit their GP (general practitioner, primary care physician) if there is no pregnancy after 12 months of trying. For anybody who is concerned about fertility, especially if they are older (women over 35), it might be a good idea to see a doctor earlier. As fertility testing can sometimes take a long time, and female fertility starts to drop when a woman is in her thirties, seeing the doctor earlier on if you are over 35 makes sense.
A GP can give the patient advice and carry out some preliminary assessments. As it takes two to make a baby it is better for both the male and female to see the doctor together.
Before undergoing testing for fertility it is important that the couple be committed. The doctor will need to know what the patients’ sexual habits are, and may make recommendations regarding them. Tests and trials might extend over a long period. Even after thorough testing, no specific cause is ever found for 30% of infertility cases.
In some countries where universal healthcare cover does not exist, evaluation and eventual treatment may be expensive.
Tests for Females
- General physical exam – the doctor will ask the woman about her medical history, medications, menstruation cycle, and sexual habits. She will also undergo a gynecological examination.
- Blood test – several things will be checked, for example, whether hormone levels are correct and whether the woman is ovulating (progesterone test).
- Hysterosalpingography – fluid is injected into the woman’s uterus which shows up in X-ray pictures. X-rays are taken to determine whether the fluid travels properly out of the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. If the doctor identifies any problems, such as a blockage, surgery may need to be performed.
- Laparoscopy ,– a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end (laparoscope) is inserted into the abdomen and pelvis to look at the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. A small incision is made below the belly button and a needle is inserted into the abdominal cavity; carbon dioxide is injected to create a space for the laparoscope. The doctor will be able to detect endometriosis, scarring, blockages, and some irregularities of the uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Ovarian reserve testing – this is done to find out how effective the eggs are after ovulation.
- Genetic testing – this is to find out whether a genetic abnormality is interfering with the woman’s fertility.
- Pelvic ultrasound – high frequency sound waves create an image of an organ in the body, which in this case is the woman’s uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
- Chlamydia test – if the woman is found to have Chlamydia, which can affect fertility, she will be prescribed antibiotics to treat it.
- Thyroid function test – according to the National Health Service (UK) between 1.3% and 5.1% of infertile women have an abnormal thyroid.