For couples trying to conceive (TTC), if you fail to prepare adequately, you're likely preparing to fail. Here's how a fertility screening helps you get a leg up in the family planning process, especially if you've been trying to conceive for a while now.
Sun Tzu's seminal military text, The Art of War, states: "The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought." Couples trying to get pregnant may be the furthest thing from military leaders attempting to come out on top in a conflict, but this advice applies to the former nonetheless.
Proper planning is crucial when a couple is trying for a child. This includes having sufficient financial resources and finding a primary care physician and gynaecologist who you're comfortable with. Additionally, both parties must know precisely how fertile they are.
That's because your reproductive health cannot be measured by how well you feel. You (or your partner) may rarely catch the flu bug, but your reproductive health could tell a different story. That's where a fertility screening comes in, giving both of you a crystal-clear view of your individual reproductive health. Here's everything you need to know about this check-up.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended as medical advice.
What Is a Fertility Screening?
A fertility screening scans for any reproductive health issues you and your partner may have . These fertility issues include but are not limited to:
- Problems with healthy sperm or egg production,
- Sperms not being able to make their way to the egg, and
- Fertilised eggs having trouble implanting themselves in the womb
The gynaecologist will ask about your medical history and lifestyle during a fertility screening. The latter includes whether you've been exposed to chemicals, radiation, or toxins. They may also want to know if you're practising unhealthy habits like smoking and alcohol consumption. Additionally, they'll ask about your sex life, especially if you and your partner have been trying to conceive for a while.
Next up is a series of tests. Don't worry; these are minimally invasive and won't take long. One of them is an ultrasound scan, allowing the gynaecologist to check your uterine lining, follicle development, and how healthy your ovaries are . For men, a semen analysis (the most basic test) will be conducted, which evaluates the condition of your sperm.
Often, ladies would need to take a hormone test as well. The exact hormones your gynaecologist is testing for will depend on their expert analysis. Still, the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test, aka the egg count test, is a common one that fertility screening packages include . If you'd like to save a trip to a fertility clinic for this ovarian reserve test, you can simply perform one at your convenience with an at-home hormone test kit.
Speaking of, our twoplus Fertility's Hormone Test Kit lets you check your hormone levels in the comfort and privacy of your own home. This at-home hormone test measures the levels of key fertility hormones such as:
- Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH),
- Follicle-Stimulating hormone (FSH),
- Thyroid-Stimulating hormone (TSH),
- Free Thyroxine (FT4), and
- Prolactin (PRL)
Why Should I Go for a Fertility Screening?
1. It Helps You Plan Ahead
This is true in more ways than you might think. Take the hormone test portion of a fertility screening, for example. When your gynaecologist knows how your hormone levels fare, the appropriate lifestyle recommendations and/or treatments can be prescribed. This boosts your fertility levels and nips any potential reproductive health issues in the bud.
Ditto for men after receiving the results of their semen analysis. Speaking with your primary care physician and taking stock of your lifestyle habits will allow you to improve your sperm health. After all, your child is the result of your combined efforts with your partner. That's why both parties in a relationship should strive to be in the pink of reproductive health.
Furthermore, a fertility screening allows you and your partner to adjust your family plans, factoring in the cost of any treatments the two of you might need. Plus, it gives your gynaecologist and primary care physician clarity on your fertility levels. This way, they can guide you better as you try to conceive.
2. It Highlights Why You Have Trouble Trying To Conceive
Ideally, you should undergo a fertility screening if you and your partner have trouble getting pregnant after trying for a while. Folks who find themselves not conceiving after 6-12 months of trying for a child should schedule an appointment. Thanks to the comprehensive tests in a fertility screening, your gynaecologist will likely be able to identify why you have difficulty conceiving.
For women, the possible causes of fertility issues include :
- Problems with egg quantity and quality
- Ovulation disorders, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Problems with the fallopian tubes, for example, blockage or damage
- Problems with the uterus
- Abnormal hormonal levels
Attending a fertility screening lets your gynaecologist know the exact issues you're facing. They will then be able to give you appropriate advice and recommend suitable treatment options.
Contrary to popular misconception, males aren't immune to fertility issues either. Poor quality sperm and a low sperm count are two common male fertility problems.
That's why comprehensive fertility screenings for men may include :
- A semen analysis to evaluate your sperm count, motility (how efficiently your sperm moves), and morphology (the physical appearance of your sperm)
- A genital examination to check the physical state of the penis and testicles
- A testicular biopsy, in which a small part of the testicle is removed for diagnosis
- A pelvic ultrasound to inspect the prostate and urinary bladder
Some of these tests can be done at home. For instance, twoplus Fertility's Sperm Count Test Kit checks the sperm concentration in your semen in minutes without visiting the clinic.
3. It Lets You and Your Partner Get Involved
Your fertility journey isn't a solo trip. Your partner should be there with you every step of the way, right from the moment you start planning for a family. Going for a fertility screening with your partner is a way for both of you to begin this journey on the right foot, even if the results aren't ideal.
Not only is this an act of solidarity and love, but both parties should also be responsible for their own reproductive health. The onus does not lie solely on you or your partner to be mindful of your fertility levels. After all, you know what they say about teamwork making the dream work. Although this means twice the cost, it'll be worth every penny.
4. It Grants You Peace of Mind
This is applicable even if the fertility screening results aren't in your favour. For example, if you're attending a fertility screening after spending some time trying to conceive, knowing your problems will put your mind at ease. You and your doctors will know what course of action to take next, which is much better than groping around in the dark.
On the other hand, if you're going for a fertility screening before you start trying for a child and it turns out to be uneventful, it's a case of "no news is good news." This is the green light to go full steam ahead with your partner and focus on the action beneath the sheets.
5. It Allows You To Achieve Your Family Planning Goals
Last but not least, a fertility screening allows you to achieve your family planning goals more efficiently. You might not be able to conceive quicker, but the results of the screening light the way forward. Complete knowledge of your fertility health lets you seek the right course of action and adjust your plans accordingly.
It can be worrying for you and your partner to have little or no knowledge of your reproductive health. Sure, a fertility screening's results might be discomforting, but at least you'll be able to adjust your family plans and set goals that will fit what your body can achieve. After all, unrealistic expectations won't do any good for your mental health.
Conversely, if you and your partner discover that you're both in the pink of reproductive health, it validates your family plans, and you can proceed with one less worry.
How Do a Fertility Screening and Pre-Pregnancy Test Differ?
On the surface, a fertility screening and pre-pregnancy test seem the same. However, there are several differences between the two health check-ups.
Firstly, most gynaecologists recommend a pre-pregnancy test instead of a fertility screening when you tell them you've just started trying for a child . This is to ensure that your body is healthy and ready for pregnancy. A pre-pregnancy test can also identify health problems that may affect your chances of conception or make it unsafe for you to be pregnant.
For that reason, a pre-pregnancy test includes blood tests that specifically check for your immune status against certain diseases like chickenpox that may impact your odds of conception. After getting your results, you can take the appropriate vaccinations before you start trying to conceive. Additionally, blood tests will scan for genetic conditions like thalassemia (a hereditary blood disorder) .
Secondly, pre-pregnancy tests are solely for women who will be carrying a baby to term. For example, in a lesbian couple, only the person carrying the pregnancy will have to take the pre-pregnancy screening. Whether you're a same-sex or heterogenous couple, your partner can and should sit in during the initial and post-test consultation. Still, there won't be any need for male-specific examinations, like sperm count tests, usually reserved for fertility check-ups.
Speaking of fertility screenings, gynaecologists typically recommend them for older couples or those having trouble conceiving. That's because the tests involved are geared towards sieving out any reproductive health issues you and your partner may be struggling with.
However, there's nothing wrong with going for a fertility check-up instead of a pre-pregnancy test, even if you aren't the target audience. This is especially if your partner wants to get involved in the process.
A Fertility Screening Illuminates the Way Forward
A fertility screening is invaluable for couples trying to conceive, whether you are just starting out or facing some trouble along the way. After all, you know what they say about knowledge being power. The results of a fertility screening not only benefit you and your partner but also enlighten your primary care physician and gynaecologist on the way forward.
Sure enough, trying for a child is never easy, even if this isn't your first time. That's why a fertility screening can help you and your partner make more accurate decisions before sliding between the sheets.