The subject of fertility is often elusive, confusing couples who are concerned about their ability - or inability - to conceive a child. While fertility tests are administered daily, the science behind fertitility can be quite confusing.
Fertility is the ability for a man and a woman to conceive a child. Fertility can be inhibited by several biological factors, some of which come from the woman, while others come from the man. In some cases, both the man and the woman have problems that contribute to fertility, which makes conception all the harder.
The simplest option a couple can adopt is a home fertility test, which may or may not determine the cause of the problem. A home fertility test is much like a pregnancy test; the woman urinates on a test strip, which measures the levels of horomones in the woman's body. Horomones, however, are just one of the factors in determining the fertility of a woman, and a home fertility test cannot rule out problems inherent to the man.
When a couple visits their doctor for fertility testing, they are typically assigned a battery of tests which may consist of up to ten procedures. Couples who are hoping to have children in the near future will typically want to explore every possibility so that they can definitively come up with a solution.
The first tests than a woman will undergo will look for cervical, vaginal and uterine defects that might inhibit her level of fertility. Cancer, tumors, growths, cysts and infections can substantially reduce a woman's chances of getting pregnant, if not eliminate them altogether. If these tests rule out the possibility of infection or disorder, the doctor will proceed to the next level of testing.
Because it is less invasive and complicated the the tests a woman must undergo, the male counterpart will be asked to submit a semen sample for analysis. Laboratory technicians will run several tests on the sample he provides, including a semen culture, a semen analysis, and sperm penetration and function studies. This will determine whether the sperm have low mobility or if there is a low sperm count.
If this does not produce results concerning the fertility problem, the woman may be scheduled for a hysterosalpingogram, which is an x-ray of the internal reproductive organs. The doctors will use this test to look for intrauterine scarring or tissue damage; a closed or malfunctioning fallopian tube; and the accessibility and location of the uterine lining. An ultrasound may also be performed at this time.
Further fertility testing may be done during menstruation to look for alterations in the pH balance in the woman. There is also a surge of horomones in the female system prior to the release of the mature egg from the ovary, and the doctors will want to obtain urine samples during this time to look for abnormalities. Other tests might include a post-intercourse examination, psychological testing, and an examination of the cervical mucus.
Once the problem has been identified, the doctor will discuss a line of treatment, therapy or procedures to help the couple to achieve a healthy pregnancy. In very few cases will future pregnancy not be an option, and if this is the case, there are other alternatives such as adoption and in-vitro fertilization. Couples who experience problems with fertility should consult with their physician and determine the best course of fertility testing.