Top of the pageDecision Point

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor’s recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Fertility Problems: Should I Be Tested?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Have tests to try to find out the cause of
    infertility.
  • Don’t have tests. To make family planning decisions,
    use the information you already have.

Key points to remember

  • If you are younger than 35 and are trying to
    get pregnant (conceive), most doctors suggest trying well-timed sex for at
    least 1 year before thinking about testing. The best time to conceive is just
    before
    ovulation. Some couples find that they have been
    missing their most fertile days when trying to conceive.
  • If you
    are a woman 35 or older and have tried well-timed sex for 6 months, you might
    want to think about infertility testing before age-related problems make it too
    hard to conceive.
  • Infertility tests may find what is causing the problem.
    Sometimes you can be treated at the same time.
  • Testing and
    treatment can be stressful, costly, and sometimes painful. You may need only a
    few tests, or you may need many tests over months and years.
  • If
    you decide to have infertility testing, talk with your doctor about how much
    testing you are willing to do and for how long. You may only want to have tests
    for problems you are willing to treat or that will help you move on to other
    options, such as adoption.
  • Tests can’t always find the cause of infertility. And not all
    infertility problems can be treated.
FAQs

What is infertility?

You may be
infertile if you have not been able to get pregnant
after trying for at least 1 year.

A woman’s fertility slowly
drops from her mid-30s into her 40s because of the natural
aging of the egg supply. A man’s fertility is not affected as much by age.

Defining infertility is a personal issue. It can depend on your
age and how much time you choose to spend trying to get pregnant without
medical help.

What kinds of problems lead to infertility?

In
about 35 out of 100 couples, testing finds a male fertility problem, such as
with sperm production or ejaculation.footnote 1

In about 50 out of 100
couples, testing finds a female fertility problem with
ovulation,
fallopian tube function, or other pelvic problems.footnote 1

Some couples find that both partners have a fertility problem.

In 10 out of 100 couples, no cause is found.footnote 1

It can be stressful for you and your partner to
find out the reason for infertility. Knowing where the problem is may create
feelings of guilt and blame and may put strain on your relationship. Not being
able to find any cause can also create stress. You may want to talk with a
counselor or join an infertility support group before you make your decision.
Talking with other people can help you feel less alone.

What types of tests are done?

Tests for infertility can range from a simple blood test to surgery. If you
decide to have testing, your doctor will want to check you and your partner at
the same time.

  • Basic tests can show
    if there are problems with eggs or sperm. Depending on the results, the test
    may be repeated, or you and your partner will be treated with medicines and
    hormones. These tests may include:

    • Basal body temperature
      tests.
    • Blood tests.
    • Semen analysis.
  • Advanced tests check the reproductive
    organs of both partners. These tests look for diseases or fertility problems
    that might be treated. These tests may include:

    • Hysterosalpingogram. This checks the
      fallopian tubes and can clear them if a blockage is
      found. The test may be done with or without
      ultrasound.
    • Laparoscopy.
      This test looks at reproductive organs and checks for problems such as
      endometriosis.
    • Hysteroscopy.
      This test looks for growths or defects in the uterus that can’t be seen with
      other tests.
    • Sperm antibody test. This test shows
      whether sperm have been damaged by
      antibodies.

How can you use the test results?

Based on your
test results, your doctor can help you decide about your next testing or
treatment option. Take some time to think about what you have learned from each
test and what you want to do next.

For example, if your first
test results are normal and no clear reason is found for your fertility
problem, you may:

  • Keep trying to conceive on your own, having
    sex just before
    ovulation to increase your chances of getting
    pregnant.
  • Have advanced tests to find out a cause for your
    fertility problem. These tests will check your
    fallopian tubes to be sure that eggs can enter the
    tubes, be fertilized, and start to grow in the uterus. The tests may involve
    cutting or poking, and they have risks, such as cramping or infection.

Tests can’t always find the cause of infertility. And not
all infertility problems can be treated.

Depending on the results
of these tests, your doctor may suggest treatment, such as:

  • Insemination, with or without ovulation medicine.
  • A fallopian tube procedure or in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive a pregnancy.
  • Laparoscopy, to look for problems with your fallopian
    tubes or ovaries.

Before you decide about testing, think about:

  • How important is it to you and your partner
    to know why you haven’t become pregnant?
  • How will test results
    affect your family planning?
  • How will you deal with the stress of
    testing?
  • How much will it cost? Talk with your doctor and your
    health insurer about costs.

What else do you need to know about testing?

Testing and treatment can be costly, stressful, and sometimes painful.
Before starting, talk about how much testing you are willing to do and for how
long.

You may decide to have the basic tests only and to stop
when you have enough information. Or instead of advanced testing and treatment,
you may decide to keep trying to get pregnant on your own or to adopt a child.
Your decision will be based on your health, age, goals, and values.

Why might your doctor recommend infertility testing?

Your doctor might advise you to have infertility testing if:

  • You are younger than 35, have regular
    menstrual periods, and have had sex during your
    fertile window (the 6 days each month that you can become pregnant) for at least 1 year.
  • You
    are 35 or older, or you have irregular periods and have had sex during your
    fertile window for at least 6 months.
  • You are at
    high risk for fertility problems and have had sex
    during your fertile window for a few months.
  • You have had several
    miscarriages.
  • It would be easier for you
    to make family planning decisions with test results.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?

What are the benefits?

What are the risks and side effects?

Have infertility testing

Have infertility testing

  • You have one or more
    infertility tests to find out why you and your partner
    are having problems getting pregnant.
  • You keep track of how often you and your partner have sex, and
    you talk about this with your doctor.
  • You decide how much testing to do, and you stop when you have
    enough information. Based on the test results, you may decide to get fertility
    treatment.
  • You may be able to find
    out why you are having problems getting pregnant.
  • Some tests can
    find the problem and treat it at the same time.
  • You may
    need many tests over many months or years. Tests can’t always find the cause of
    infertility. And not all infertility problems can be
    treated.
  • Testing is stressful and can be costly.
  • Basic
    tests, such as semen analysis and blood tests, have no risks or side effects,
    and they don’t cause pain.
  • Advanced tests or surgery may require a
    cut in the skin and can be painful. They have a higher chance of problems after
    the test, such as cramping or infection.
Don’t have infertility
testing

Don’t have infertility
testing

  • You keep trying
    to conceive on your own, having sex just before
    ovulation to increase your chances of getting
    pregnant. Some couples find that they have been missing their most fertile days
    when trying to conceive.
  • You consider other options for parenting, such as
    adoption or raising a foster child.
  • You avoid the
    cost, stress, and risks of infertility testing.
  • You
    may have an infertility problem that can be treated, but you may not know
    it.

Personal stories about infertility testing

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

Most
couples we know seemed to get pregnant after just a few months of trying. We’ve
been trying now for about 5 or 6 months and still haven’t gotten pregnant. But
we aren’t sure that we have been having sex at the right time of the month, so
we got some information about how to calculate the fertile time. We are going
to see if working on our timing for a few months helps us get pregnant. If it
doesn’t, we’ll see our doctor to talk about the next step.

Lynn, age 33, and James, age
40

I didn’t have any trouble getting pregnant
with my first child. But my second husband and I have been trying to have a
baby for about a year now, and I still haven’t gotten pregnant. Since he
doesn’t have any children of his own, we can’t be sure which one of us may have
a problem. We have been having sex at the right times. We agree that it’s time
to find out whether there may be a problem. We don’t want to wait too long,
because we’d like the new baby to be able to grow up with his or her big
sister.

Rosa, age
32

We are getting started on our baby-making a
little bit later than a lot of couples: I’m 34 and my husband is 38. It’s
ironic that we have both been so successful in our careers and yet now seem to
be having trouble having a baby! We have been trying for about 8 or 9 months,
and it doesn’t seem to be happening. My husband is a little on the macho side,
so he’s not too keen on having a semen analysis. But I’m sure that if I agree
to have some tests, he will too.

Carol, age 34, and Dave, age
38

We’ve been trying to conceive for 10 months
now. Soon we’ll have to start counting in years, I’m afraid. It’s been a rude
awakening to discover that we can’t control our ability to conceive. But since
we are both still young, we aren’t too worried yet. We are going to try
tracking my wife’s menstrual cycles and see if that helps before we take the
next step. If that doesn’t help, I’ll consider having my sperm checked.

James, age 27, and
Sabra, age 26

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to have infertility testing

Reasons not to have infertility testing

Having a biological child is very important to me.

Having a biological child is not that important to me.

More important
Equally important
More important

I’m not worried about the cost of infertility testing.

I’m worried about the cost of testing.

More important
Equally important
More important

I think I can handle the stress of testing.

I’m not sure that I can handle the stress of testing.

More important
Equally important
More important

I accept that testing may not be able to find a problem or treat it if one is found.

I don’t want to have a lot of tests that may not find my problem or treat it.

More important
Equally important
More important

I know that having these tests means talking with doctors about our sex life.

I’m not comfortable talking about our sex life.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you’ve thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Having infertility testing

NOT having infertility testing

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1, If you are younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for 4 months, is it time to think about an infertility test?
2, Can testing always help you find out the cause of any infertility problem?
3, Can some tests find and treat an infertility problem?

Decide what’s next

1,Do you understand the options available to you?
2,Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3,Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

Your Summary

Here’s a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision 

Next steps

Which way you’re leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts 

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act 

Patient choices

Credits and References

Credits
Author Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC – Obstetrics and Gynecology

References
Citations
  1. Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Female infertility. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 1137-1190. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor’s recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Fertility Problems: Should I Be Tested?

Here’s a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the Facts

Your options

  • Have tests to try to find out the cause of
    infertility.
  • Don’t have tests. To make family planning decisions,
    use the information you already have.

Key points to remember

  • If you are younger than 35 and are trying to
    get pregnant (conceive), most doctors suggest trying well-timed sex for at
    least 1 year before thinking about testing. The best time to conceive is just
    before
    ovulation. Some couples find that they have been
    missing their most fertile days when trying to conceive.
  • If you
    are a woman 35 or older and have tried well-timed sex for 6 months, you might
    want to think about infertility testing before age-related problems make it too
    hard to conceive.
  • Infertility tests may find what is causing the problem.
    Sometimes you can be treated at the same time.
  • Testing and
    treatment can be stressful, costly, and sometimes painful. You may need only a
    few tests, or you may need many tests over months and years.
  • If
    you decide to have infertility testing, talk with your doctor about how much
    testing you are willing to do and for how long. You may only want to have tests
    for problems you are willing to treat or that will help you move on to other
    options, such as adoption.
  • Tests can’t always find the cause of infertility. And not all
    infertility problems can be treated.
FAQs

What is infertility?

You may be
infertile if you have not been able to get pregnant
after trying for at least 1 year.

A woman’s fertility slowly
drops from her mid-30s into her 40s because of the natural
aging of the egg supply. A man’s fertility is not affected as much by age.

Defining infertility is a personal issue. It can depend on your
age and how much time you choose to spend trying to get pregnant without
medical help.

What kinds of problems lead to infertility?

In
about 35 out of 100 couples, testing finds a male fertility problem, such as
with sperm production or ejaculation.1

In about 50 out of 100
couples, testing finds a female fertility problem with
ovulation,
fallopian tube function, or other pelvic problems.1

Some couples find that both partners have a fertility problem.

In 10 out of 100 couples, no cause is found.1

It can be stressful for you and your partner to
find out the reason for infertility. Knowing where the problem is may create
feelings of guilt and blame and may put strain on your relationship. Not being
able to find any cause can also create stress. You may want to talk with a
counselor or join an infertility support group before you make your decision.
Talking with other people can help you feel less alone.

What types of tests are done?

Tests for infertility can range from a simple blood test to surgery. If you
decide to have testing, your doctor will want to check you and your partner at
the same time.

  • Basic tests can show
    if there are problems with eggs or sperm. Depending on the results, the test
    may be repeated, or you and your partner will be treated with medicines and
    hormones. These tests may include:

    • Basal body temperature
      tests.
    • Blood tests.
    • Semen analysis.
  • Advanced tests check the reproductive
    organs of both partners. These tests look for diseases or fertility problems
    that might be treated. These tests may include:

    • Hysterosalpingogram. This checks the
      fallopian tubes and can clear them if a blockage is
      found. The test may be done with or without
      ultrasound.
    • Laparoscopy.
      This test looks at reproductive organs and checks for problems such as
      endometriosis.
    • Hysteroscopy.
      This test looks for growths or defects in the uterus that can’t be seen with
      other tests.
    • Sperm antibody test. This test shows
      whether sperm have been damaged by
      antibodies.

How can you use the test results?

Based on your
test results, your doctor can help you decide about your next testing or
treatment option. Take some time to think about what you have learned from each
test and what you want to do next.

For example, if your first
test results are normal and no clear reason is found for your fertility
problem, you may:

  • Keep trying to conceive on your own, having
    sex just before
    ovulation to increase your chances of getting
    pregnant.
  • Have advanced tests to find out a cause for your
    fertility problem. These tests will check your
    fallopian tubes to be sure that eggs can enter the
    tubes, be fertilized, and start to grow in the uterus. The tests may involve
    cutting or poking, and they have risks, such as cramping or infection.

Tests can’t always find the cause of infertility. And not
all infertility problems can be treated.

Depending on the results
of these tests, your doctor may suggest treatment, such as:

  • Insemination, with or without ovulation medicine.
  • A fallopian tube procedure or in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive a pregnancy.
  • Laparoscopy, to look for problems with your fallopian
    tubes or ovaries.

Before you decide about testing, think about:

  • How important is it to you and your partner
    to know why you haven’t become pregnant?
  • How will test results
    affect your family planning?
  • How will you deal with the stress of
    testing?
  • How much will it cost? Talk with your doctor and your
    health insurer about costs.

What else do you need to know about testing?

Testing and treatment can be costly, stressful, and sometimes painful.
Before starting, talk about how much testing you are willing to do and for how
long.

You may decide to have the basic tests only and to stop
when you have enough information. Or instead of advanced testing and treatment,
you may decide to keep trying to get pregnant on your own or to adopt a child.
Your decision will be based on your health, age, goals, and values.

Why might your doctor recommend infertility testing?

Your doctor might advise you to have infertility testing if:

  • You are younger than 35, have regular
    menstrual periods, and have had sex during your
    fertile window (the 6 days each month that you can become pregnant) for at least 1 year.
  • You
    are 35 or older, or you have irregular periods and have had sex during your
    fertile window for at least 6 months.
  • You are at
    high risk for fertility problems and have had sex
    during your fertile window for a few months.
  • You have had several
    miscarriages.
  • It would be easier for you
    to make family planning decisions with test results.

2. Compare your options

  Have infertility testing
Don’t have infertility
testing
What is usually involved?
  • You have one or more
    infertility tests to find out why you and your partner
    are having problems getting pregnant.
  • You keep track of how often you and your partner have sex, and
    you talk about this with your doctor.
  • You decide how much testing to do, and you stop when you have
    enough information. Based on the test results, you may decide to get fertility
    treatment.
  • You keep trying
    to conceive on your own, having sex just before
    ovulation to increase your chances of getting
    pregnant. Some couples find that they have been missing their most fertile days
    when trying to conceive.
  • You consider other options for parenting, such as
    adoption or raising a foster child.
What are the benefits?
  • You may be able to find
    out why you are having problems getting pregnant.
  • Some tests can
    find the problem and treat it at the same time.
  • You avoid the
    cost, stress, and risks of infertility testing.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • You may
    need many tests over many months or years. Tests can’t always find the cause of
    infertility. And not all infertility problems can be
    treated.
  • Testing is stressful and can be costly.
  • Basic
    tests, such as semen analysis and blood tests, have no risks or side effects,
    and they don’t cause pain.
  • Advanced tests or surgery may require a
    cut in the skin and can be painful. They have a higher chance of problems after
    the test, such as cramping or infection.
  • You
    may have an infertility problem that can be treated, but you may not know
    it.

Personal stories

Personal stories about infertility testing

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

“Most couples we know seemed to get pregnant after just a few months of trying. We’ve been trying now for about 5 or 6 months and still haven’t gotten pregnant. But we aren’t sure that we have been having sex at the right time of the month, so we got some information about how to calculate the fertile time. We are going to see if working on our timing for a few months helps us get pregnant. If it doesn’t, we’ll see our doctor to talk about the next step.”

— Lynn, age 33, and James, age
40

“I didn’t have any trouble getting pregnant with my first child. But my second husband and I have been trying to have a baby for about a year now, and I still haven’t gotten pregnant. Since he doesn’t have any children of his own, we can’t be sure which one of us may have a problem. We have been having sex at the right times. We agree that it’s time to find out whether there may be a problem. We don’t want to wait too long, because we’d like the new baby to be able to grow up with his or her big sister.”

— Rosa, age
32

“We are getting started on our baby-making a little bit later than a lot of couples: I’m 34 and my husband is 38. It’s ironic that we have both been so successful in our careers and yet now seem to be having trouble having a baby! We have been trying for about 8 or 9 months, and it doesn’t seem to be happening. My husband is a little on the macho side, so he’s not too keen on having a semen analysis. But I’m sure that if I agree to have some tests, he will too.”

— Carol, age 34, and Dave, age
38

“We’ve been trying to conceive for 10 months now. Soon we’ll have to start counting in years, I’m afraid. It’s been a rude awakening to discover that we can’t control our ability to conceive. But since we are both still young, we aren’t too worried yet. We are going to try tracking my wife’s menstrual cycles and see if that helps before we take the next step. If that doesn’t help, I’ll consider having my sperm checked.”

— James, age 27, and
Sabra, age 26

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to have infertility testing

Reasons not to have infertility testing

Having a biological child is very important to me.

Having a biological child is not that important to me.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I’m not worried about the cost of infertility testing.

I’m worried about the cost of testing.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I think I can handle the stress of testing.

I’m not sure that I can handle the stress of testing.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I accept that testing may not be able to find a problem or treat it if one is found.

I don’t want to have a lot of tests that may not find my problem or treat it.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

I know that having these tests means talking with doctors about our sex life.

I’m not comfortable talking about our sex life.

             
More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

   
             
More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you’ve thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Having infertility testing

NOT having infertility testing

             
Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.
If you are younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for 4 months, is it time to think about an infertility test?

  • Yes

  • No
  • I’m not sure

You’re right. If you’re younger than 35 and trying to get pregnant, doctors suggest trying well-timed sex for at least 1 year before thinking about testing.

2.
Can testing always help you find out the cause of any infertility problem?

  • Yes

  • No
  • I’m not sure

You’re right. Tests can’t always find the cause of infertility. And not all infertility problems can be treated.

3.
Can some tests find and treat an infertility problem?

  • Yes
  • No

  • I’m not sure

You’re right. Infertility tests may find what is causing the problem. Sometimes you can be treated during the test.

Decide what’s next

1.
Do you understand the options available to you?

2.
Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.
Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.
How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

         
Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2.
Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I’m ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

 
Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC – Obstetrics and Gynecology

References
Citations
  1. Fritz MA, Speroff L (2011). Female infertility. In Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 8th ed., pp. 1137-1190. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Note: The “printer friendly” document will not contain all the information available in the online document some Information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.