When a woman doesn't become pregnant after 6 to 12 months of trying or she keeps having miscarriages, she and her partner often go to a doctor to undergo a fertility test. The doctor usually runs a sperm test for men and a test to determine ovary function for women. The test indicates the problem that is causing the difficulty with conceiving, allowing the doctor to decide on an appropriate course of treatment.
A doctor considers several factors when recommending a fertility test, including the age of the couple and the length of time during which they have been trying to conceive. A fertility test for women usually consists of a physical exam, an analysis of medical history, an ovulation check, tests to check for a normal uterus and open fallopian tubes, and a discussion about the frequency and timing of sexual intercourse. Complete evaluation usually requires a few months to conduct, so tests can be performed during the span of several menstrual cycles.
For men, a fertility test usually involves testing a semen sample, which the man can produce at home or at a lab, depending on the doctor. The doctor studies the sample to determine the number of sperm, their shapes, their movement and any signs of infection. The doctor might also refer the man to a urologist for testing of the urinary tract.
For women, the doctor usually begins the fertility test by conducting a physical exam and analyzing health history, including menstrual function, pregnancy history, sexually transmitted disease (STD) history and birth control history. The doctor then conducts a pap test and blood tests. Other tests the doctor could carry out include hysterosalpingography (HSG), the X-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes; transvaginal ultrasound; hysteroscopy, using a telescope-like device to look through the cervix; and laparoscopy, using a telescope-like device to look through a small cut at the navel. The doctor also might have the woman conduct self-tests — using urine tests and basal body temperature tests — at home to check for ovulation so she can correctly time sexual intercourse.
Infertility can be a result of the couple's age, problems with the man's sperm, abnormal hormone levels, STDs and lifestyle problems. Statistics show infertility can be traced to the woman in 65 percent of cases, and the man is responsible for infertility in 20 percent of cases. The rest of the time, no cause can be found for the infertility problem. As many as two-thirds of couples who receive infertility treatments go on to conceive.