Everyone knows they should make a doctors appointment after discovering they are pregnant, but did you know it is also recommended to go to an obstetrician before you even try to achieve pregnancy? This has not always been standard practice, but as more women find themselves having trouble conceiving or become pregnant to only experiences issues, it makes sense that they should check in with the state of their fertility in advance.
Some may find this unnecessary, but you would be surprised how much a doctor can help assist you in your earlier stages. The information you might discover could be invaluable, and when it comes to your health and the health of your baby, you can never be too safe. This article will explore why you might want to get your fertility tested before you conceive and other things to keep in mind on your way.
Who should get their Fertility Tested?
Depending on your situation, it may be more essential for you to have your fertility tested than others. Factors that contribute to this include:
- Being 30 years of age or older, especially if you haven't had a child and wish to someday
- Being under 30 years of age and your mother experienced menopause at the age of 38 or younger
- Having a family history of fragile egg syndrome or autoimmune disease (increasing the risk of ovarian failure early on in life)
- Being a heavy smoker or being above a healthy body weight
Most women who are between the ages of 18 and 30 should not be concerned about their infertility until they have tried conceive with their partner for a year. Still, if you are worried for any reason, it won’t hurt anything to have a doctor analyze the state of your fertility and help you develop your plan for your coming pregnancy.
What to Expect During the Pre-Pregnancy Appointment
The beginning of a pre-pregnancy checkup consists of your doctor learning anything they can about your full medical history as well as your partners. This is usually followed by a series of tests, such as checking your blood and a Pap smear. Through these tests your doctor will be able to discover if you have any existing medical conditions that could affect the pregnancy or your ability to conceive.
Illnesses your doctor might test for include:
- Chickenpox immunity
- Hepatitis B immunity
- Rubella immunity
- STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea
- Thyroid problems
- Toxoplasmosis and parvovirus B19
- Sickle cell anemia
- Common genetic diseases
Your Fertility Score
If you receive a score of 2 or higher on your fertility score you are considered at normal fertility (or better). Still, you will want to continue to test your fertility with each year if you wish to continue to attempt having children. If your score is low, you are under 30, and you wish to wait a little longer before having children, it is a good idea to consider freezing your eggs.
What else to Consider Before Attempting to Conceive
In addition to ensuring that you and your partner are in sufficient health to attempt having a child, your doctor will also recommend certain life changes and habits for you to adopt to promote a healthy pregnancy.
Some examples of these suggestions include:
Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol. Illicit drugs are simply not good for you and will cause every part of your overall health to decline. Excessive consumption of alcohol will also lead to eventual failure in your natural bodily function. If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor to make sure they do not having anything in them that could be negatively affecting your fertility.
Do not smoke. Smoking also makes it harder for you to get pregnant and can affect the health of the child if you do successfully achieve pregnancy.
Exercise and focus on your nutrition. Being at an unhealthy weight can not only make it difficult to achieve pregnancy, but it can make pregnancy dangerous for you and/or your child. Developing a good exercise routine and ensuring you are getting all of your vitamins and nutrients will help your body to perform better overall and provide a safe home for a growing baby.
Reduce your caffeine intake. Doctors have not come up with an exact amount of caffeine intake that is safe during pregnancy, but most agree that women should avoid consuming it excessively if they are trying to conceive or are already pregnant. Some studies show that too much caffeine to be linked to miscarriage.
Keep up on your oral hygiene. It has been found that gum disease could have an affect on the health of your pregnancy and could increase the risk of delivering preterm or babies being born at a dangerously low weight. Brush, floss, and visit the dentist every 6 months.
Take folic acid and be careful of vitamin A. Your doctor will tell you to start taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least 1 month before you conceive and during your first trimester if you are successful at achieving pregnancy. By doing this, you limit your chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects by 50-70 percent as well as other birth defects, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Folic acid supplements can be found at your local drugstore, but you can also get your dose by taking prenatal or regular multivitamins. Just make sure that they contain 400 micrograms of folic acid. If you decide to go the multivitamin route, make sure that it does not include more than 770 mcg of vitamin A, unless it is mostly in the form of beta-carotene. Too much of another type of vitamin A has been known to cause birth defects. If you are unsure about which multivitamin to take, check with your doctor and they can give you a good recommendation.
Make sure you are financially equipped to have a child. Everyone knows that raising a child is expensive, but many do not think about how much it costs to go through delivery and how these costs continue to climb if any complications occur. Learn everything you can about your current health insurance plan and if there is a better option out there for you to cover your financial matters if you do become pregnant or choose to undergo fertility testing and treatment.
If you do not have health insurance, now is the time to get it. Contact your local health department to see what programs or resources are available to help pregnant women get the medical care and services they require.
Check in with yourself mentally and emotionally. It has been found that women struggling with depression have a more difficult time achieving pregnancy than those that are not. Depression usually means a lack of motivation to eat healthfully and stay in good physical health. This will keep your body from functioning properly, which includes fertility health. If you are finding yourself less and less motivated to take care of yourself, you should consider speaking to a therapist or psychiatrist before making anymore attempts to bring a child into the world.
When should you see a Fertility Specialist and What Tests will They Do
As you have probably gathered by now, there are a lot of things that could affect your fertility. If your doctor recommends you visit a fertility specialist after checking your fertility you should listen them. They only have you and your baby’s best interest in mind. If you have been attempting to conceive for over a year, a fertility specialist can help you find what might be getting in the way of your fertility. Only comprehensive fertility testing can isolate the problem and determine which course of treatment can help you.
Semen analysis. This is usually one of the first tests a fertility specialist will perform. Semen analysis includes the evaluation of the amount of semen produced in one sample and the overall quality of the sperm. Issues that can be found in this test are usually in the sperm count, sperm shape, sperm motility, semen volume, semen pH levels, semen white blood cell count, and semen fructose levels. Problems with semen affect more than 1 in 3 couples dealing with fertility issues.
Postcoital fertility test. This test is done after you and your partner have intercourse in order to check the way the sperm is able to last as it travels through the woman’s cervical mucus. This is actually testing the fertility in both the male and female and is often performed if and when sperm analysis and hormone testing haven’t provided any answers.
The timing of the postcoital test is very particular, as it can only be done while the female is menstruating, and is usually performed 1 to 2 days before ovulation occurs because that is when the woman’s cervical mucus has become thin enough for the sperm to move through it.
Hormone testing. When the man undergoes hormone testing, the specialist will typically check his levels of:
- Free Testosterone
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone
- Luteinizing Hormone
A high level of FSH and LH may indicate testicular problems.
Ultrasound fertility tests. Ultrasounds tests for men, when looking for infertility, usually are used to search for:
- Problems within the prostate gland
- Ejaculation or erectile problems
- Swelling in the seminal vesicles which could mean blockage in the ejaculatory ducts
- Any issues surrounding the scrotum
- The sperm’s ability to circulate and be stored normally
Fertility testing for women includes:
Hormone testing. When the woman undergoes hormone testing, the specialist will typically check her levels of the following:
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Total Testosterone
- Free Testosterone
- Fasting Insulin
- 17 Hydroxyprogesterone
These tests must also be done during the woman’s menstrual cycle so the fertility specialist can evaluate baseline FSH and LH levels. High levels of FSH and LH can have an affect on egg quality and also indicate ovarian problems. On the other hand, low levels could indicate a pituitary or hypothalamus disorder which can cause issues with fertility.
Ultrasound fertility tests. Ultrasounds tests for women, when looking for infertility, usually are to search for:
- The condition and size of the ovaries
- Monitoring ovulation, checking the growth of follicles in the ovary
- The condition of the lining within the uterus and whether there are any structural issues
- Any abnormal growths in the organs such as uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts
What does this mean?
Whether or not it is absolutely necessary to get your fertility tested before attempting conception is all based on your unique situation (your age and state of health). However, it will not hurt to check in and make sure everything is working correctly if you happen to have any concerns for any reason.
Speaking with a fertility specialist about your plans and what you have experienced thus far is a wise decision. Set up your appointment today and you can learn everything you need to know about the fertility options that exist for you and your partner.