After one year of trying to conceive, unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy should be evaluated by a physician. There are specific test options for both female and male, and some overlap. The most common fertility tests for women are the pap smear, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test, and the luteinizing hormone (LH) test. All 3 are performed within minutes. The tests can also uncover potential life-threatening issues that are hindering fertility. Here’s what women can expect when receiving any of these tests.
A Pap smear is used to test for changes in cervical cells which can lead to cancer. The whole procedure is quick, taking less than 5 minutes. During the test, the doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina. This allows the doctor to easily see the vaginal walls and cervix. The doctor will then take a long cotton swab to wipe against the cervix. The swab will be placed in a vile and sent to a lab for testing. A Pap smear is painless, though the patient may feel some pressure. The results should come in a few days.
The FSH test is used to detect FSH levels in the body. This hormone is involved in reproduction, and too much or too little can lead to infertility. The test is done by blood or urine samples. Even if FSH levels are too high or too low, additional hormone tests will likely be done before diagnosis. The pituitary gland produces FSH. Unbalanced levels could be a sign of underlying issues with the hypothalamus. These tests are performed if the patient has trouble getting pregnant, irregular periods, early or late puberty, or weight or appetite issues. Even low sex drive and decreased muscle mass could be tied to abnormal FSH levels.
The LH test is used to detect LH levels within the body. The luteinizing hormone impacts the female and male reproductive systems, specifically the ovaries and testes. A small blood sample is all that is needed to determine LH levels in the blood. Like FSH, LH is also produced in the pituitary gland. The LH test is performed for many of the same reasons as the FSH. Infertility, pituitary issues, irregular periods, low testosterone, reduced sex drive, and weak muscle mass can be a sign LH levels are not balanced.
Pap smears, FSH, and LH tests are the most common fertility tests for women. These tests help determine the overall reproductive health of the female and can uncover underlying issues. The tests are typically ordered after a year of struggling to conceive. Often quick and painless, the tests are performed in a doctor’s office. Women struggling with infertility should speak with a healthcare provider or gynecologist for more information regarding fertility testing options.