diagnosing infertility what goes into the process

What is infertility? Infertility is a condition that causes men and women problems having children. It can be causes by illness, hormones, low sperm count, physical defects, environmental chemicals, cancer, ovulation problems, tumors and age. It is often expensive and often involves uncomfortable procedures. Many insurance plans do not cover the expense but several states do require insurance companies to offer it and employers.

When you cannot get pregnant often a complete examination is required of both the woman and man. This is because both are part of the process. Men will get a physical exam and sperm analysis. Women get a complete physical and pelvic exam. Often the doctor will take blood tests to test hormone levels and perform ultrasounds, and X-rays. They will check the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus for growth or complications.

Fertility Tests For Men

A semen analysis measures the amount of sperm a man produces and the quality of the sperm. This test is done to find out if the man has a problem fathering a child. About 1/3 of men suffer from infertility. The motility of the sperm is measured to see how quickly it can move forward normally. This test  is done to see if the man has a reproductive obstacle or shows when a  vasectomy has been successful.

Semen samples are collected in the office where the sample goes into a plastic cup. Another method is while the couple has sex at home it is collected in a condom and then put into a cup or the male withdraw and ejaculates into a cup. There are now at home male fertility tests so they don’t have to perform the test at the doctor’s office.

Other tests performed on men may be testing the levels of testosterone in the body. It affects the development and features of the child. They may test for the luteinizing hormone which in men stimulates the production of testosterone. It is usually measured by a blood or urine test. A FSH test may be given because it’s a hormone that stimulates the production of sperm in men.

Fertility Tests for Women

After the doctor examines the women they will discuss her menstrual cycle, any surgical procedures she has had, medications, and birth control. They will start using tests to get more information.  The doctor often tests your ovulation using an ovulation predictor kit that you use at home. You have to take your daily temperature and get samples of cervical mucus.  These tests are not always accurate

A fertility monitor is another device the doctor may use. Bloods tests are given to measure hormone levels in the blood, sexually transmitted diseases, the luteinizing hormone which regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle, and FSH which produces milk in a woman’s breast. They often use an ultrasound test to find out the thickness of the uterus and to check the condition of follicles, ovaries, and uterus. It is often used to see if an egg has been released. . The hormone testing is used to determine if they are functioning properly and interfering with fertility. There are several tests and your doctor will determine what types are right for you.  

Ovarian reserve testing determines the quality and quantity of eggs a woman produces.  It helps determine whether you’re ovulating or not. Sometimes genetic testing is used to determine if a genetic defect is causing infertility

More Tests For Women

Doctors often perform an HSG test that is an X-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus.  A dye is injected into the uterus that allows the radiologist to see the blockage more clearly. Hysteroscopy test inserts the device thorough the cervix to look for scarring and abnormalities in the uterus. The physician can take photos which are used to help diagnose infertility.

Another procedure or test t that is used is a fiber optics telescope called a laparoscopy under general anesthesia. It is inserted through the abdomen to see the fallopian tubes and ovaries more clearly. They look for scar tissue, polyps, and endometriosis. Later they are removed using a laser.

An endometrial biopsy is a procedure where they scrape tissue before ovulation. It is used to determine if the lining is thick enough to implant the fertilized egg and let it grow. The doctor will usually determine is a woman is pregnant before performing this test.

There are many ways for diagnosing infertility in both men and women. Physical exams, tests, X-rays and ultrasounds determine the causes. It is a complicated process on how to diagnose infertility.  Some tests are embarrassing but the results are often positive. It often leads to the couple being able to have their own children.

By Joan Russell

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