Your and your partner’s fertility has a significant role to play in your ability to fall pregnant. Whether you’re actively trying to conceive a little jellybean, or thinking about it down the line, knowing what’s going on down under can help explain why things aren’t working, how soon you might need to start getting it on, or even how you might go about falling pregnant.
So, let’s chat about how to test fertility and how to get a fertility test.
What is a fertility test?
A fertility test evaluates your and/or your partner’s fertility. (It’s important to know that fertility is as much a male issue as it is a female issue, with research showing that approximately 40 to 50 per cent of infertility cases are caused by the ‘male factor’ – their words, not ours!)
Why might you get a fertility test?
There are a few different reasons, some of which we briefly mentioned above. You might:
- Be TTC but yet to C – meaning, despite your best efforts, you’re still waiting for those two lines on a pregnancy test. A doctor will generally recommend a fertility test if you’re over 35 and haven’t conceived within six months of having regular sex without birth control or under 35 and haven’t conceived within a year of having regular sex without birth control.
- Be thinking of TTC but have known fertility challenges – like if you’ve got endometriosis or PCOS, or if you’ve had ovarian surgery, chemotherapy treatment, or a sexually transmitted infection (fun fact: chlamydia can cause fertility problems in men and women).
- Want to have a family… but perhaps just not yet – so you want to know whether you can wait or whether you need to get your conception skates on, or even if you can or should freeze your eggs.
What are the different types of fertility tests?
There are two main types of fertility tests: at-home and medical. Let’s discuss each and how these fertility tests work.
At-home fertility tests
At-home fertility tests are kits that can be bought in-store or online. They work by testing your hormones or your partner’s sperm.
For women, you provide a pathology sample to the company you purchased the kit through. The company analyses it and sends you a fertility profile, detailing things like your potential ovarian reserve (this refers to how many eggs you’ve got left in your ovaries), your thyroid and hormone levels, your possible reproductive timeline, and any red flags (e.g., signs of PCOS). Kin Fertility’s offering is often touted as the best at-home fertility test.
Men will take a semen sample and use the kit to analyse the presence and number of swimmers. YO is a newcomer to the sperm testing scene, and thanks to its use of smartphone technology, it’s received praise as one of the best at-home fertility tests for men.
While these at-home tests are damn cool (c’mon, the tech!) and a great starting point to learn about your and your partner’s fertility, they don’t account for medical conditions or even other lifestyle factors that can affect fertility. This is where seeking the help of a professional can be of use.
Medical fertility tests
These are a series of assessments, tests, and exams done by your doctor, ob-gyn, or a specialist in a clinic or hospital.
You’ll begin with an assessment from your doctor or ob-gyn, where you and your partner will be asked about topics like your medical histories, your lifestyles, and how long you’ve been TTC (including how often you’re having sex to fall pregnant). Your doctor or ob-gyn might also do a physical examination, checking your pelvic area and your partner’s sausage and peas for any abnormalities.
If further testing is required, your doctor (or a fertility specialist or urologist – whomever you’ve been referred to) will review your circumstances and recommend specific tests and exams.
Fertility tests for women might include:
- Fertility blood tests and urine tests – to check if you’re ovulating, your ovarian reserve, and your thyroid function.
- An ultrasound – to check for conditions like endometriosis and fibroids that can affect pregnancy or blockages in your fallopian tubes.
- An x-ray – specifically a hysterosalpingogram, where x-ray contrast fluid is injected into your uterus before an x-ray to check the condition of your uterus and fallopian tubes.
- An STI test – done via a vaginal swab or urine test to check for chlamydia.
- A hysteroscopy – this is an internal female fertility test that involves a lighted device being inserted into your uterus through the cervix to check for abnormalities.
- A laparoscopy – a keyhole surgery, where a viewing device is used to examine your fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus to check for scarring, blockages, or other problems.
And for dudes, male fertility tests might include:
- A sperm fertility test – where a sperm sample is taken and analysed for any problems with the sperm, like low count or quality or even DNA abnormalities.
- An STI test – done via a urine sample to check for chlamydia.
- A blood test – to conduct a fertility hormone test and check hormone levels, particularly testosterone.
- A testicular biopsy – to check for any abnormalities that might be contributing to infertility.
- An ultrasound – to check for any problems in the testicles.
What happens after a fertility test?
If you and/or your partner have taken an at-home fertility test and results have shown there may be a problem with the ‘goods’, make an appointment to see your doctor or ob-gyn for further assessment and testing.
If you and your partner have undergone a fertility assessment or testing through your doctor, ob-gyn, or a fertility specialist, you’ll likely be provided with recommendations for family planning (if you’re not yet TTC), how you can conceive on your own, for fertility treatments, or for how you might consider conceiving with a little help from modern medicine – there are many ways and means of starting a family.
How much does a fertility test cost?
Having a baby can be an expensive exercise, so we know the next question on everyone’s lips will be: just how much is a fertility test going to set you back?
An at-home fertility test kit is usually a couple of hundred dollars. For example, the kit from Kin Fertility is $299, and the kit from YO is about$110.
Regarding clinical testing, it’s hard to report an average cost because the different fertility exams and tests have individual fees, and you and your partner may require some tests but not others. To give an idea, semen testing ranges from about $70-$200 (the costs vary from clinic to clinic), and a hysterosalpingogram will set you back a couple of hundred dollars (though there is a Medicare rebate available for these).
Knowing what’s going on with your fertility can be a game-changer for conception and family planning. For more information on trying to conceive, read up here on what you need to know about fertility vitamins, age and fertility, and family planning in a same-sex relationship.
The information in this article does not replace medical advice. If you have any concerns about your or your partner’s fertility, speak to your doctor or ob-gyn for personalised advice.