To find out if you are infertile, your doctor will go over your health history, medications, sexual history, and your sex habits, like how often you have sex.
Men will get a physical exam and often a sperm analysis, which tests the health of his sperm.
Q. What goes into a fertility evaluation? A. A standard fertility evaluation includes physical exams and
medical and sexual histories of both partners. Men undergo a semen analysis
that evaluates sperm count and sperm movement. "We look at the percent that
are moving and how they are moving--are the sperm sluggish? Are they
wandering?" says Robert G. Brzyski, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of
obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at
San Antonio. "Often, it's not possible to identify a specific reason for a
sperm disorder," he says. "But there is new recognition that very low
sperm or no sperm may be related to genetics--an abnormality of the Y
For women, doctors first check to see whether ovulation is occurring. This
can be determined and monitored through blood tests that detect hormones,
ultrasound examinations of the ovaries, or an ovulation home test kit. "An
irregular menstrual pattern would make us suspicious of an ovulation problem,
but it's also possible for a woman with regular periods to have an ovulation
disorder," Brzyski says.
For women, testing begins with a physical and a pelvic exam. The doctor then makes sure that she ovulates regularly and her ovaries are releasing the eggs. Blood tests are taken to measure hormone levels. The ovaries and uterus may be examined by ultrasound, and a specific X-ray test can check the uterus and fallopian tubes.
In about 80% of couples, the cause of infertility is either an ovulation problem, blockage of the fallopian tubes, or a sperm problem. In 5%-15% of couples, all tests are normal, and the cause is not known.
What Are the Treatments for Infertility?
In men, fertility is treated with:
Surgery, if the cause is a varicoele (widening of the veins in the scrotum) or a blockage in the vas deferens, tubes that carry sperm.
Antibiotics to treat infections in the reproductive organs.
Medications and counseling to treat problems with erections or ejaculation.
Hormone treatments if the problem is a low or high level of certain hormones.
In women, infertility is treated with:
Fertility drugs and hormones to help the woman ovulate or restore levels of hormones
Surgery to remove tissue that is blocking fertility (such as endometriosis) or to open blocked fallopian tubes
Infertility in men and woman can also be treated with assisted reproductive technology, or ART. There are several types of ART:
IUI (intrauterine insemination): Sperm is collected and the placed directly inside the woman's uterus while she is ovulating.
IVF (in vitro fertilization): The sperm and egg are collected and brought together in a lab. The fertilized egg grows for a few days. Then the embryo is placed in the woman's uterus.
GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) and ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer): The sperm and egg are collected, brought together in a lab, and quickly placed in a fallopian tube.
SOURCES: the InterNational Council on Infertility Information and Dissemination. WebMD Medical Reference from the American College of Physicians:" Women's Health VII Infertility." "Gynecology and Obstetrics," The Merck Manual 2005, Section 18, Chapter 245.
Nivin Todd, MD, FACOG on April 12, 2013