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Fertility Tests for Women


WebMD Special Report

Infertility is a serious worry for many couples because it's a diagnosis that has the potential to dramatically alter the life that you always imagined for yourself.

But infertility is not as bleak as you might imagine. Although a person may be considered infertile after one full year of trying to conceive, 12 months may not mean that much. One recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that the majority of women up to age 39 who didn't become pregnant in their first year did become pregnant in their second year -- without any medical assistance. For women between ages 27 and 34, only 6% were unable to conceive in their second year. And for 35- to 39-year-old women, only 9% were unable to conceive in their second year -- provided their partner was under 40.

So even if you've been trying to get pregnant for a year, this does not mean you are infertile. Resist the temptation to rush into expensive infertility treatments before you need to.

Going to the Infertility Doctors

If you're concerned about infertility, the best thing to do is to make an appointment with a doctor, preferably an infertility specialist. He or she will start by talking with you and your partner about your medical health and habits. Although you may find some of the questions awkward or embarrassing, it's the best way to evaluate what might be causing your trouble. In many cases, infertility is the result of a combination of problems, sometimes in each partner, which makes a thorough examination important.

Before you see a specialist, make sure that you understand the costs of infertility tests, and whether your insurance will cover them.

Your doctor will probably ask you both about:

  • Your medical histories, including any chronic illnesses or surgeries.
  • Your use of prescription medication.
  • Your use of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
  • Your exposure to chemicals, toxins, or radiation in the home or at work.
  • Your sexual habits, including how often you have sex, any history of sexual problems or sexually transmitted diseases, and whether either of you have had sex outstide the relationship.
  • Your choice of underwear -- if you're a man, that is -- since tight fitting briefs can keep the scrotum temperature too warm for normal sperm production.

Your doctor will also want to ask about a woman's gynecologic history and ask you:

  • Whether you've been pregnant before and the outcome of those pregnancies
  • About the frequency of your periods over the last year
  • Whether you've been irregular and missed periods or had spotting between periods
  • About any changes in blood flow or the appearance of large blood clots
  • About what methods of birth control you've used
  • Whether you've seen a doctor before for fertility problems and undergone treatment for them

If you have seen a doctor about fertility problems before, make sure to bring all fertility-related medical records and X-rays or sonograms with you, or at least have them sent ahead.

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