You might want to start trying to find out if there’s some medical problem that’s stopping you getting pregnant.
The easiest place to start is with the man. Men often assume that it’s the woman who’s got the fertility problem if she’s having trouble getting pregnant. But it’s just as likely to be the man.
For men, it’s pretty easy to have your sperm tested to see if you’re producing enough healthy sperm with a simple test. For women it takes more trouble and detective work, involving more different kinds of tests. So usually it makes sense to start fertility testing with the man.
Tests for men
Fertility testing for men is pretty straightforward. You need to provide a sample of sperm, and they'll check it out for you in the lab. When you visit your health professional for a fertility test, first of all he may well want to ask you some pretty personal questions about your sex life, and also examine your genitals. Then he’ll send off a sample of your sperm to have it analysed.
Of course, you might want to say no to any embarrassing examinations and just provide a sperm sample. (Though be grateful, it wouldn’t be an option for your partner to skip uncomfortable and intimate examinations!).
Providing a sperm sample You usually provide a sperm sample just by masturbating and squirting the sperm into a clean container. And if you don’t have to travel too far to the clinic, you may well be able to produce the sample at home. If for religious reasons you object to masturbating, you can collect the sperm in a special condom when you have intercourse. And if also for religious reasons you don’t want to use a condom, you can always prick a hole in it first.
The result The lab will give a report on how many sperm are in your semen, and how many of them are healthy – whether they can ‘swim’ well and are able to fertilise an egg. You may find you have plenty of healthy sperm, so at least you know the problem doesn’t lie with you. But it could also be that you have relatively few healthy sperm, which makes it harder for you to get your partner pregnant. The best thing then is to make sure you follow all the fertility tips for men – like not smoking or drinking, and keeping your testicles cool. If there are no sperm at all, then you can get medical help to find out what’s causing the problem, and see if something can be done about it.
If you really want to avoid any embarrassment, you can now get home kits to test your sperm. These kits aren’t as reliable as a proper test in a lab. They only tell you how many sperm there are in your semen, but not how healthy they are. You can order a kit online for about 30 US dollars plus postage.
Tests for women
Fertility testing for women is more complicated than it is for men, basically just because there are more different reasons you could be having trouble getting pregnant. This means you might need to have various different tests. They could include:
- A cervical mucus test, to see if sperm can survive in the mucus at the neck of your womb
- An ultrasound scan to check your womb and ovaries
- Hormone tests to check your levels of the hormones involved in getting pregnant
- An X-ray of your womb and fallopian tubes to see if there is a blockage. First some dye is injected through your cervix.
- A hysteroscopy, when a flexible tube like a tiny telescope is inserted through the cervix to look inside the womb.
You can also buy a home fertility test for women. This measures the level of the FSH hormone in your body, which can show how likely it is that you’ll be able to get pregnant. The test indicates how many eggs you have left in your ovaries, but it’s not necessarily very accurate.