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A complete guide to fertility testing

The decision to begin trying for a baby is a monumental one, and while it is an exciting step, it also invites uncertainty. How long will we be trying? What lies ahead?

Everyone experiences the nervous anticipation of taking a pregnancy test, which can be followed by the disappointment of a negative result. Even when everything is working as it should, there is only a 20-25% chance of pregnancy in any given month. The truth is that becoming pregnant can take some time.

The traditional definition of infertility follows the age of a woman and the amount of time spent trying to conceive in order to roughly assess at which point a couple is experiencing challenges. This timeline is one year of trying for women under 35 and six months of trying for women over 35. Those who are unable to achieve or sustain a pregnancy after trying within that time frame are encouraged to seek help.

The first step will be a fertility evaluation of both partners, which includes testing. You don’t have to wait to be tested; some couples complete a Fertility Awareness Check-Up as they start just to get an idea of where they stand. Knowledge is power and basic fertility testing costs the same as dinner out for two, so it’s worth considering.

Join Dr. Christopher Sipe as he discusses how doctors test and evaluate fertility in men and women. You’ll learn what tests reveal, how long test results are valid for, the causes behind poor results, where supplements can help and how to overcome issues with treatment. He’ll also tell you which DIY tests can help or hurt your efforts.

The Time to Talk Fertility podcast: A Complete Guide to Fertility Testing episode discusses questions such as:

  • Do patients come in too early for testing, or do they wait too long?
  • When people say they’ve waited, why the delay?
  • What do you look for during a female physical exam and vaginal ultrasound?
  • Can you give us a quick overview of the standard introductory tests?
  • What is the AMH test and what does it measure?
  • What is the FSH test and what does that measure?
  • For an Estradiol hormone test, what are you assessing?
  • What is Luteinizing Hormone and how is it tested?
  • What is an HSG and what does it test?
  • Outside of these tests, are there any other common tests you might do?
  • Once these tests are complete, how long are they valid for?
  • In what scenarios should a woman do testing before trying to conceive?
  • What are you looking for during a male physical exam?
  • Can you share the logistics of how a man gets a semen sample to the lab?
  • What should men know about semen volume, sperm concentration and count?
  • Can you explain sperm morphology and motility? 
  • Is there anything else you are looking for when evaluating a semen sample?
  • After a semen analysis is complete, how long are the test results good for?
  • In what circumstances should a man undergo testing before trying for a baby?
  • Are these tests covered by insurance? 
  • What should patients know about at-home testing?
  • What supplements should women and men take to improve fertility?
  • Can you share some words of hope with our listeners?

The Time to Talk Fertility podcast releases new episodes monthly and is available on Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadioStitcherTune InGoogle Play and Spotify.

Medical contribution by Christopher Sipe, M.D.

Dr. Christopher Sipe is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI), and has been practicing medicine since 2003. He completed his residency training at Northwestern University, where he received numerous awards for excellence in laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery.

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