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Exploring female fertility tests: what you need to know

When deciding to have a baby, planning for this next stage in your life is important.

With the support of fertility experts, like our dedicated team at the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine, you can access female fertility testing and learn everything you need to know about conceiving in a way that works for you.

Understanding female fertility

Some women get pregnant easily and quickly. Other women don’t and may require additional fertility support. If you don’t become pregnant right away, don’t worry – there are several things you can do to support conception.

Female fertility will naturally decline as you age, from the age of 35 it starts to slowly decline. So this is something to bear in mind when trying for a baby.

Fertility testing can be a really helpful part of your journey, helping to provide you with answers to the difficulties you may have been facing. By undergoing fertility testing, you can find out if anything is affecting your chances of conception, as well as understand if fertility treatment will be required.

Causes of fertility problems in women

Infertility in women can be caused by a wide variety of factors. Some of the main examples of these include:

  • PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome – this condition can cause egg production problems and hormone imbalances

  • Endometriosis – inflammation and scar tissue from endometriosis can affect your womb and fallopian tubes

  • Fibroids – these can impact on the structure of your womb

  • Previous chemotherapy or radiotherapy – this can stop your ovaries from functioning

  • Premature ovarian insufficiency – when your ovaries stop working before the age of 40

  • Blocked fallopian tubes – this can stop the egg from reaching the sperm and being fertilised

In some cases, there is no known cause of fertility problems. However, there are still fertility treatments that may help you.

Types of female fertility tests

When determining your level of fertility, there are several types of female fertility tests available to choose between. You also don’t have to use just one – a combination of tests can be used to provide you with comprehensive results.

The female fertility tests we offer at BCRM include:

  • Ovarian reserve test – This blood test measures your levels of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) to give a good indication of how many eggs you have remaining in your ovaries and your reproductive potential.

  • Test for blocked tubes – Damage to your fallopian tubes can cause blockages, which can make falling pregnant difficult. We use a HyCoSy (ultrasound and contrast dye) test, an HSG X-ray test or a laparoscopy (diagnostic keyhole surgery) to check for blockages within your fallopian tubes.

  • Fertility ultrasound – A transvaginal ultrasound involves a small probe being inserted into your vagina to provide detailed images of your reproductive system. This test can detect conditions such as fibroids, PCOS and premature menopause. It also allows us to assess Antral Follicle Count (AFC), which is another measure of ovarian reserve.

  • Ovulation and hormone test – Blood tests are used to determine your hormone levels and to confirm if you are ovulating.
    • Progesterone may confirm ovulation

    • FSH/LH can assess your ovarian reserve and hormone balance

    • Testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) can diagnose PCOS and other hormone imbalances

    • Prolactin and thyroid function tests may reveal the reason for irregular periods

  • One-stop fertility MOT – This is our complete, comprehensive fertility test that assesses both you and your male partner during one visit. You can get all the answers you need without waiting around and attending multiple appointments.

When to consider fertility testing

Most women don’t get pregnant right away. In fact, it can take up to a year before you conceive. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider fertility testing before then.

Fertility testing can provide you with detailed insights into your current reproductive health and spot any health conditions you might not have known about.

By undergoing fertility testing, you can understand how best to prepare your body for pregnancy and what you can do to increase your chances of conceiving.

There are also some key signs to be aware of which can indicate the need for fertility testing. These can include:

  • Not conceiving after having unprotected sex for over a year

  • If you have had previous cancer treatments

  • If you already have a diagnosed gynaecological condition, such as endometriosis or PCOS

  • If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

  • If your periods are irregular or absent.

Female fertility test results

Understanding your fertility test results is important and, at BCRM, we will be with you every step of the way to make sure they are crystal clear.

Ultrasound results

The results of your ultrasound will confirm any abnormalities in your reproductive system. These results may be available immediately and can sometimes require further testing to confirm a diagnosis.

Hormonal blood test results

If you have a blood test to check your progesterone levels, your results may indicate if you are ovulating or not. A level of 25 nmol/l before your period suggests you are ovulating normally. It’s important to remember that even women without fertility problems may not ovulate every single month. This means you may need a repeat test to ensure accurate results.

Ovarian reserve blood test results

The results of your ovarian reserve blood test will give an assessment of the number of eggs you have in your ovaries. The FSH blood test is usually carried out on day two, three or four of your menstrual cycle. An AMH blood test can be performed at any time. Our fertility specialists will be able to help you understand the results of these tests.

STI test results

STI results will either be positive, negative or inconclusive (which usually means the test needs to be repeated). If your tests come back positive, you may be recommended treatment to clear it before you try to get pregnant.

Laparoscopy test results

The results of your laparoscopy may confirm endometriosis or any blockages within your fallopian tubes. These may need to be treated with further surgery depending on how severe they are before you try to conceive.

HyCoSy or HSG test results

A HyCoSy (special ultrasound) or HSG (type of X-ray) result will tell us whether there are any blockages of your fallopian tubes. Confirmed blockages can mean you need further treatment before trying to conceive.

Common myths and misconceptions around fertility testing

There are lots of misconceptions about fertility testing. So, we thought we’d separate the fact from the fiction to ensure you’re as well-informed as possible.

Myth 1: Fertility testing means you’re infertile

Anybody can undergo fertility testing and it doesn’t always mean you are infertile. Opting to have fertility tests carried out means you get a good overall picture of your reproductive health, which can make it easier for you to conceive.

Myth 2: Women can’t get pregnant after the age of 35

Women can most definitely fall pregnant after the age of 35. Although your fertility levels will have decreased by the time you’ve reached this age, you can still become pregnant.

Sometimes, however, you may need a bit of extra help from fertility treatments like intra-uterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Myth 3: You must wait one year before seeking help from a fertility specialist

Although it’s recommended to speak with a fertility specialist if you don’t fall pregnant after having unprotected sex for one year, you do not need to wait this long. There’s no hard rule that says you have to wait one year. Seeing an expert sooner rather than later means you can address any unidentified health issues more quickly.

Myth 4: Only older women struggle with infertility

Women of any age can struggle with infertility, so you can visit a fertility specialist regardless of how old you are. In fact, you can benefit from seeing a fertility specialist at any age, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Get in touch with the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine

At the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine, our supportive team understands that fertility testing is a crucial part of many people’s lives. This is why we ensure you receive all the information and compassionate care you deserve.

Choosing us as your centre for fertility testing means you get dedicated access to expert levels of fertility care. If you’re considering fertility testing, book an appointment with us today.