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Infertility Tests - Overview

What are the benefits of infertility tests?

Infertility tests may find what is causing the problem and you can sometimes be treated during the tests. For example, a blocked fallopian tube may be opened during a hysterosalpingogram.

Sometimes tests cannot find the cause of infertility. And not all infertility problems can be treated. Infertility in men is often less successfully treated than infertility in women. But you may still be able to become pregnant using assisted reproductive technology, which can treat male or female problems.

What tests are done first?

Tests to find the cause of infertility
Who Test name Description

Both partners

Medical history

Your doctor will ask questions about your sex life, your birth control methods, any sexually transmitted infections (STIs), medicine use, and the use of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Your menstrual cycle and exercise patterns will be checked. If STIs are suspected, more tests may be done.

Physical exam

A complete physical exam of both you and your partner is done to check your health.

  • A woman's physical exam usually includes a pelvic examination and Pap test. For more information, see the topics Pelvic Examination and Pap Test.
  • A man's physical exam usually includes a testicular examination. For more information, see the topic Testicular Examination. Not all fertility doctors will do a physical examination of the man. If there are problems with the semen, the doctor may refer the male partner to a urologist.

Blood or urine tests

  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone tests may be done during a woman's menstrual cycle to help see whether she is ovulating. LH may be checked in a man to see whether he has a pituitary gland problem. For more information, see the topics Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Progesterone.
  • Thyroid function tests may be done to check for thyroid hormone problems that may be preventing ovulation. For more information, see the topics Thyroid Hormone Tests and Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
  • Prolactin is a hormone made by the pituitary gland. It may be checked if a woman has menstrual cycle or ovulation problems. For more information, see the topic Prolactin.
  • The anti-mullerian hormone test is a blood test that is sometimes used to check a woman's egg supply (ovarian reserve). It may be used for women who are considering IVF. Anti-mullerian levels go down as a woman's egg supply decreases, which usually happens with age.
  • In some cases, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) may be used to check a woman's egg supply (ovarian reserve). For more information, see the topic Follicle-Stimulating Hormone. FSH testing may also be used for men with a very low number of sperm to try to find out the source of the problem.
  • A testosterone test may be used to see whether a problem with the testicles or pituitary gland is preventing a man from being able to father a child. A low amount of testosterone can lead to low sperm counts. For more information, see the topic Testosterone.
  • Tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be done. These may include urine samples or samples from the cervix or urethra.

Man

Semen analysis

A semen analysis checks the number of sperm (sperm count), the number of sperm that look normal, the number of sperm that can move normally, the number of white blood cells in the semen, and how much semen is made. For more information, see the topic Semen Analysis.

Woman

Postcoital test

The postcoital test checks a woman's cervical mucus after sex to see whether sperm are alive and able to move normally through the mucus. This test must be done the day before or the day of ovulation. Many doctors question the value of the postcoital test to check for infertility. It is not done very often. For more information, see the topic Postcoital Test.

Home test

Home LH urine test kits can be used to see when ovulation occurs. Sometimes a woman's basal body temperature (BBT) is also checked at the same time. For more information, see the topic Fertility Awareness.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 10, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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