What do you need to conceive?
The essential ingredients for making a baby are sperm, eggs, open fallopian tubes, and a healthy uterine environment. How do you know if you’ve got what it takes? Lab testing goes a long way in highlighting your fertility status.
What types of lab testing are done for fertility?
There are three main types of labs used for testing fertility markers. The first is blood testing, used for measuring the hormones that give us great insight into how your reproductive system is working. The second type of testing is diagnostic imaging, which evaluates the structure of both the fallopian tubes and the uterus. The third form of testing is semen analysis for sperm.
Your hormones and your fertility – Measuring your hormones is done via a blood test, some of which need to be done specifically at the start of the menstrual cycle, on cycle day 3.
Cycle Day 3 FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone)
As the ability of the ovaries to produce good quality eggs decreases, the level of FSH rises. Must be evaluated with estradiol levels.
Cycle Day 3 E2 (Estradiol)
High levels of estradiol at this point in the cycle suggest poor egg quality, and will suppress FSH levels.
Cycle Day 3 LH (Luteinizing Hormone)
LH levels provide another marker for egg quality and quantity, along with FSH and estradiol.
AMH (Anti Mullerian Hormone)
AMH levels reflect the quantity, but not the quality, of the eggs. The most established role for AMH measurements is before IVF, since AMH can be help predict how many eggs will be produced during an IVF cycle.
Prolactin is normally made in larger quantities during lactation (breast feeding). High levels will prevent ovulation. Prolactin levels may be abnormally elevated for other reasons.
TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
Abnormal thyroid levels can interfere with normal ovulation, healthy fetal development, and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Performed in the second half of the cycle, about seven days after ovulation (typically day 21 of a 28 day cycle). Adequate progesterone levels are needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
Diagnostic Imaging gives us information on the structural integrity of your reproductive organs – are they in working order for you to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy?
This test is used to identify any structural abnormalities in the fallopian tubes or uterus, such as a weirdly shaped uterus, fibroid tumors, or blockages in the fallopian tubes.
A sonogram is used to evaluate the uterus for fibroids, or the ovaries for PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), both are common causes of fertility challenges.
A semen analysis is a simple, quick test to measure the quantity of the sperm. Specifically we want to know how many sperm are able to swim normally, which is needed for them to be able to fertilize an egg.
When should you get fertility lab testing done?
The timing of a fertility workup for women is age dependent, since age is the one factor that affects all women trying to conceive:
- 30 years old: after one year of trying to conceive
- 35 years old: after 6 months of trying to conceive
- 40 years old: before trying to conceive
For men, a semen analysis is best performed as early as possible in the fertility journey. Treating various sperm issues can take time, so it’s best to get started sooner rather than later.
Have you already had lab testing done for your fertility? Did someone explain the results to you, in detail? Are you curious what your numbers are? What they mean?
How did this information influence your decision about what to do next?
This is precisely what we do for our patients, and any fertility specialist that you work with should do the same for you.
Ready to get started?
Book your first appointment here. We serve the East Bay, including Piedmont, Oakland, and Berkeley.