Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year for most couples. Infertility may result from an issue with either you or your partner, or a combination of factors that interfere with pregnancy.
The main symptom of infertility is not getting pregnant. There may be no other obvious symptoms. Sometimes, an infertile woman may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. Rarely, an infertile man may have some signs of hormonal problems, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function. Most couples will eventually conceive, with or without treatment.
You may have a general physical exam, including a regular gynecological exam.
Specific fertility tests may include:
•Ovulation testing. A blood test measures hormone levels to determine whether you're ovulating.
•Hysterosalpingography. Hysterosalpingography (his-tur-o-sal-ping-GOG-ruh-fee) evaluates the condition of your uterus and fallopian tubes and looks for blockages or other problems. X-ray contrast is injected into your uterus, and an X-ray is taken to determine if the cavity is normal and ensure the fluid spills out of your fallopian tubes.
•Ovarian reserve testing. This testing helps determine the quality and quantity of the eggs available for ovulation. This approach often begins with hormone testing early in the menstrual cycle.
•Other hormone testing. Other hormone tests check levels of ovulatory hormones, as well as pituitary hormones that control reproductive processes.
•Imaging tests. Pelvic ultrasound looks for uterine or fallopian tube disease. Sometimes a hysterosonography (his-tur-o-suh-NOG-ruh-fee) is used to see details inside the uterus that are not seen on a regular ultrasound.
Depending on your situation, rarely your testing may include:
•Hysteroscopy. Based on your symptoms, your doctor may request a hysteroscopy to look for uterine or fallopian tube disease. During hysteroscopy, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted device through your cervix into your uterus to view any potential abnormalities.
•Laparoscopy. This minimally invasive surgery involves making a small incision beneath your navel and inserting a thin viewing device to examine your fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus. A laparoscopy may identify endometriosis, scarring, blockages or irregularities of the fallopian tubes, and problems with the ovaries and uterus.
•Genetic testing. Genetic testing helps determine whether there's a genetic defect causing infertility.
Infertility treatment depends on:
•What's causing the infertility
•How long you've been infertile
•Your age and your partner's age
Some causes of infertility can't be corrected. In cases where spontaneous pregnancy doesn't happen, couples can often still achieve a pregnancy through use of assisted reproductive technology. Infertility treatment may involve significant financial, physical, psychological and time commitments.