Finding The Root Cause Of Female Infertility

Infertility can be a delicate topic for any person to discuss. While people often think that fertility is a woman’s problem, infertility solely linked to difficulties with a woman only accounts for a third of all infertility cases in the United States. When most people think of a reproductive exam for women, the Pap smear is one of the most common procedures that comes to mind. But in reality, multiple fertility tests may be performed to find the root cause of potential female infertility.

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Hysterosalpingograms explained

A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is an x-ray exam. The test is designed to look for signs of physical problems that might make conception difficult for a woman. The procedure includes using a catheter to inject iodine into the uterine cavity to create a contrast for the x-ray. For example, a specialist will look for any abnormalities in the shape of the uterine cavity or if the fallopian tubes are open. Any problems in either location may make conception difficult as the egg may struggle to travel down the fallopian tubes, or an embryo may not be able to implant properly.

Ovarian reserve testing

Most people are aware that women are born with all the eggs available in the ovaries. But as women age, the quality and availability of the eggs can decline. An ovarian reserve test is a diagnostic procedure used to determine a woman’s egg quality and quantity. The most common form of the test is performed by drawing blood and looking for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The test tends to be prioritized in women who are considered high-risk, such as age 35 or older, poor hormonal balance, a family history of early menopause or a history of ovarian surgery or cancer treatment that might cause infertility.

A transvaginal ultrasound

Similar to the hysterosalpingograms, a transvaginal ultrasound may also be performed to look for physical abnormalities that might impede conception. Rather than injecting a solution, an ultrasound probe is inserted in the vagina so that a clinician can check both the uterus and ovaries for any signs of physical damage like fibroids or ovarian cysts. Transvaginal ultrasounds can also be used as effective diagnostics in additional tests such as the sonohysterography that relies on the ultrasound after filling the uterus with saline to improve visual detection results.

Ovulation testing

Ovulation testing is one of the few at-home fertility diagnostics that women can use independently. Many over-the-counter (OTC) tests rely on detecting luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. LH is a hormone that usually spikes just before ovulation. However, some women may also undergo blood tests to check for progesterone, a hormone that the body produces after ovulation.

Laparoscopies

In some cases, a specialist may prescribe laparoscopic surgery. The procedure is considered minimally invasive and requires making a small incision beneath the navel before inserting a thin visual probe to examine the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. The doctor may also insert the probe through the patient’s vagina. The diagnostic is useful for identifying conditions that can make conception difficult such as endometriosis, fallopian tube scarring or blockages, and other issues with the ovaries or uterus.

A comprehensive approach to female fertility

Just like with men, fertility testing in women can be comprehensive and isn’t solely limited to one test. Many underlying issues can contribute to a difficulty to conceive, from physical abnormalities to hormonal imbalances that might interfere with ovulation. Women concerned about infertility should speak to a fertility specialist to schedule testing.

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