Infertility is a serious problem that can radically alter the life a person had imagined for him or herself. The term “infertility” should not be taken for granted or easily used. Some people think that if a woman does not get pregnant after one year of trying, either she or her partner, or both, are infertile or sterile. This is not true, although one year of unsuccessful trying may indicate that there is something wrong. However, many times the pregnancy occurs during the second year, provided no significant health changes have occurred in the meantime.
The first step for a woman who suspects she might be infertile should be visiting a doctor, preferably an infertility specialist.
What to expect at the doctor’s
The first thing infertility doctors do when a new patient visits is to do an interview consisting of various questions regarding the health, lifestyle, habits and sexual life of both partners. Some questions can be quite personal and, for some people, embarrassing, but they are asked for a reason. The more doctors know about these important aspects, the more they will be able to identify and treat a problem.
It is very important that both partners answer the questions truthfully and thoroughly. The questions may regard general health, family history of illnesses, surgeries, prescription drugs, the use of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and caffeine, exposure to chemicals or radiation, menstrual periods, previous pregnancies, birth control methods, as well as more personal questions like the type of underwear that each partner wears, sexual habits, frequency of sexual intercourse and such.
After the interview is done with, doctors will order one or more tests for both partners.
Fertility tests for women
The basic physical exam is the first test a woman will undergo in the process of investigating her fertility. Blood tests are also necessary, checking for all the basic parameters, such as the blood count, as well as levels of female hormones, thyroid hormones, prolactin and male hormones. Some blood tests need to be done at certain points of the menstrual cycle. For example, the test for luteinizing hormone levels must be done the second or third day of the cycle.
Doctors will also need to do a pelvic exam and test the patient for sexually transmitted diseases.
Other procedures and tests may include basal body temperature charting, postcoital test of the cervical mucus, pelvic ultrasound, hysterosalpinogram, which is also known as tubogram, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy and endometrial biopsy.
Of course, not all women have to undergo all these tests. Doctors decide on which tests are appropriate basing on various parameters and results. After the testing, most couples will get some idea about why they are having difficulties conceiving and, if possible, fix those problems.