Yes, both men and women can test their fertility before making any family planning decisions. The tests are fairly quick, but they might not be covered by the NHS.
As with many things, knowledge is power and by now most people know age is an important factor in fertility. So whether you are already trying to conceive or thinking about the future knowing where you currently stand is always a good idea.
We would add one small caveat to that however; you may not want to go ahead with testing unless you are in a position to act on the results. For example try to get pregnant, see a fertility specialist or consider egg/sperm freezing.
Female Fertility Testing
The first step is to visit a fertility specialist for a blood test to evaluate your hormone levels.
One of the main goals when looking at a woman’s hormone levels is to predict the status of her ovarian reserve. Your ovarian reserve tells your doctor roughly how many eggs you have remaining.
The doctor will use this information to give you an idea of how your fertility compares to other women your age.
Most doctors will test the Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH). This hormone is produced by the granulosa cells that line the tiny follicles within the ovaries. As the number of available eggs in a woman’s ovarian reserve begins to decline so does the corresponding AMH level.
Some doctors will also test the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormone is released by the pituitary gland and is responsible for developing the follicles in the ovaries. As you get older, and the number of eggs decreases, your pituitary gland has to work harder and produce more FSH. This test has to be done at a specific time in your menstrual cycle and is used in conjunction with the AMH to determine fertility levels. Some doctors will rely just on the AMH.
The next step will be a pelvic scan to assess the ovaries and identify if there are any gynaecological issues which could impact your fertility.
Once the doctor has that information they can discuss what they mean and what options are available to you.
The NHS does have a handy online quiz that can help people trying to conceive and we also have a blog post which outlines how long you should try to conceive before visiting an IVF Specialist.
Male Fertility Testing
Men have to provide a semen sample. It has to be produced in specific circumstances so talk to the doctor first. We have a whole post on what to know about producing a semen sample as it can be a little embarrassing for some men.
The sample will be analysed and look at
- Count: how many sperm are in the sample to give them an idea of your semen production
- Motility: how many sperm are moving, and how quickly
- Morphology: how many sperm are of normal shape and size
Once you know where you stand in relation to your fertility you will be able to make decisions about whether you should continue to try to conceive naturally, look into fertility preservation options or choose a fertility clinic.
There are a lot of fertility clinics in the UK and it’s important you pick the right one for you. You might want to download our guide to choosing a fertility clinic or listen to The Fertility Podcast’s tours of our clinics.