Testing for Infertility

If you have been trying to have a baby without success, you may want to seek medical help. If you are over 35, or if you have reason to believe that there may be a medical problem, you should not wait for a full year of trying before seeing a healthcare provider. A medical evaluation may determine the reasons for a couple's infertility. Usually, this evaluation process begins with physical exams and medical and sexual histories of both partners. If there is no obvious problem, like improperly timed intercourse or absence of ovulation, certain tests may be needed.
For a man, infertility testing usually begins with testing the semen to look at the number, shape, and movement of the sperm. Sometimes, other kinds of tests, such as hormone tests, are done.
For a woman, the first step in infertility testing is to find out if she is ovulating each month. There are several ways to do this. For example, she can keep track of changes in her morning body temperature and in the texture of her cervical mucus. Another tool is a home ovulation test kit, which can be bought at drug or grocery stores. Checks of ovulation can also be done in the doctor's office, using blood tests for hormone levels or ultrasound tests of the ovaries. If the woman is ovulating, more tests will need to be done.
Some common tests used to help diagnosis a possible cause of infertility in a woman include:
  • Hysterosalpingogram: An x-ray of the fallopian tubes and uterus after they are injected with dye. It shows if the tubes are open and shows the shape of the uterus.
  • Laparoscopy: An exam of the fallopian tubes and other female organs for disease. An instrument called a laparoscope is used to see inside the abdomen (stomach).
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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