Knowing more about your fertility can help you to plan or take action. Speeding up this process can be important for your emotional health as it will help you to understand your options, this is particularly important if you are a woman in your late 30s or older as fertility declines with age.
Bourn Hall is an NHS Qualified Provider of Fertility Diagnostics and Treatment services – so if you live in Norfolk your GP can refer you to Bourn Hall for free testing if you meet the NHS criteria. Testing and treatment services are also available to self-funded patients.
Below is a short overview of the common reasons for infertility and the tests that are commonly advised to check for these conditions.
What fertility tests can tell women
Common reasons why women struggle to become pregnant include:
Lack of eggs – a woman’s fertility starts decreasing from the age of 35 and more quickly for those over 40. Between the ages of 45 and 55 women stop releasing eggs altogether; if it happens before this age it is called an early menopause.
Test: A blood test called Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) gives an indication of your egg store and your likely response to medication that is aimed at stimulating the ovaries to release eggs.
Failure to ovulate – Your ovaries may not be releasing eggs (ovulating) regularly. This affects one third of women and it is a common symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) caused by hormone imbalance. Symptoms may include irregular periods and weight gain, but many women have no symptoms.
Test: A simple blood test to check your progesterone hormone levels may indicate ovulatory disorders.
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes – this affects about 15 in 100 women who haven’t been able to get pregnant.
Test: To check that your tubes are clear and there is no obstruction to an egg moving from the ovary to the womb, we use a HyCoSy ultrasound diagnostic test. A dye is injected into the tube and its progress followed on the ultrascan.
Fibroids or abnormality of the womb – large benign growths called fibroids or other abnormalities of the womb that may stop a fertilised egg from growing in the womb.
Test: we will undertake a vaginal ultrasound scan to check your reproductive health.
What fertility tests can tell men
A semen test can show if you have one of these common reasons for failure to conceive:
- Too few sperm (low sperm count) or no sperm
- Abnormally shaped sperm, which are unable to move normally or fertilise an egg (poor morphology)
- Sperm that don’t swim well (poor motility)
Test: semen analysis. This is a thorough test performed by our highly skilled embryologists and looks at shape, number and movement of the sperm and also other factors such as anti-bodies or white blood cells that might indicate an immune response or damage.
Fertility diagnosis and treatment
If you have had your tests carried out at an NHS hospital your results from the testing would be reviewed by your hospital consultant. If you have had tests at at Bourn Hall they would be reviewed by our fertility consultant.
Following your tests and diagnosis advice given on the next steps might include:
If tests revealed irregular ovulation – then carefully monitored Ovulation Induction (OI) with fertility medication to boost egg production may be advised. This increase the chances of natural conception.
If tests reveal a lack of sperm or zero sperm or a varicocele – then further testing would be required to check the reasons for this. A minor operation, such as surgical sperm retrieval may be advised.
If tests reveal blocked tubes, endometrial tissue or obstructions such as a fibroid then surgery may be advised.
If the reason for infertility is inconclusive, or can only be treated with assisted conception, then onward referral for IVF may be advised.
Counselling – at Bourn Hall we offer support throughout your journey with us.