Guess what? Your personal fertility isn’t always an easy thing to understand. You probably know that by now. Cycles, treatments, hormones, tests… the list of fertility “buzz words” can seem endless. So whether you’re just beginning your fertility quest or have been sifting through sites for a while, we’ve answered your most burning questions here.
Let’s start with the most basic, shall we? What is fertility? Simply, fertility is someone’s ability to reproduce. The definition is easy to understand, but understanding how it works within our own bodies isn’t always so.
The good news? Finding out where you stand with fertility will help you be the most prepared to move forward in your family building journey, whenever that may be!
How Can I Test My Fertility?
There are two main options for fertility testing – at-home tests and in-office testing conducted by a physician. Both options will study your blood to determine your hormone levels.
In-office testing may also involve numerous other tests. The three main diagnostic tests that a fertility clinic uses to determine ovarian reserve are (1) a patient’s day three FSH (a blood test three days into her menstruation), (2) AMH (anti-mullerian hormone, also a blood test), and (3) an ultrasound to determine how many follicles are in each ovary (the more follicles on each ovary the better). Additionally, a patient would need to get a Pap smear to detect cervical cancer, cervical problems or STDs, which can cause difficulties in getting pregnant.
Urine tests are also helpful to determine your level of LH, a hormone that increases dramatically when you’re about to ovulate. Heightened progesterone is another indicator of ovulation.
How Can I Test My Fertility at Home?
At-home testing can be an easy and helpful indicator of fertility - thanks to technological advancement and the reliability of today’s mail and courier services. Life is busy and complicated, so it’s important that you choose a testing option that fits with your lifestyle, budget, and schedule. It can be tough to fit in numerous doctor’s appointments when you’re juggling a lot at work and at home.
Whether you choose a finger prick test or wish to track your ovulation with urine testing sticks, there are many at-home options to choose from.
Are At-Home Fertility Tests Accurate?
Think you want to try an at-home option but wondering “how accurate are fertility tests?” According to multiple reviews, many at-home fertility tests are up to 99% accurate. Good news, right? But remember, these were highly accurate in a clinical setting. Once put into the hands of the average person, we need to account for human error. Making a small mistake (i.e. contaminating the sample) could skew the results, which will bring this accuracy percentage down.
While the majority of at-home tests are clinically successful, consulting a doctor is the most trusted method of determining your future fertility. If you’ve chosen to go the at-home route, congratulations! You may very well have success. If you’re struggling to get pregnant despite using these at-home tests, though, we recommend booking an appointment with your physician.
Where Can I Get an At-Home Fertility Test?
The easiest place to find an at-home fertility test is online. E-merchants like Amazon, Target, and Walmart offer many fertility tests, as do the parent sites of tests like Modern Fertility and Dadi.
How Can I Tell When I’m Ovulating?
Ovulation happens the moment an egg is released from an ovary. The following factors can help determine your ovulation schedule:
1. The length of your menstrual cycle. Ovulation often occurs between 10 to 16 days before the start of your period. Calculating this is fairly easy if you have a regular cycle. If your cycle is less than 21 days or more than 30, though, you should seek help from a physician.
2. Small rise in body temperature. Your body temperature often rises slightly during ovulation. A thermometer and careful tracking can help you determine when this happens.
3. Cervical mucus. Near ovulation, cervical mucus becomes more slippery, wetter, and clearer.
4. An ovulation test. Ovulation tests can also help determine the next time you’ll ovulate. Urine stick tests, like the PREGMATE ovulation tracking kit, measure hormones like LH, which rise dramatically before ovulation.
The best way to track your ovulation is by using a combination of the above factors and consulting with a physician.
At-Home Tests Not Working? Don’t Panic
Wondering what happens when at-home fertility tests aren’t working? You’re not alone. For some, at-home testing may not be accurate, despite trying various brands over a long period of time. Luckily, there are plenty of more reliable sources of help. Seeing a doctor is your most fool-proof way of learning about your fertility. At a licensed fertility clinic, blood work (hormone testing) and an ultrasound (visual indicators) can determine where you are in your cycle and if you are close to or have ovulated already.
Hormones offer only a small glimpse into a woman’s ability to conceive, and some patients might not fully understand the results of their at-home tests. While at-home fertility tests are popular due to their convenience and price, seeing a fertility specialist offers more options to truly understand your results and come up with a plan to move forward.
Fertility Testing at Home Versus in a Doctor’s Clinic
To test at home or not to test at home, that is the question. As we mentioned above, this can be a difficult decision for a multitude of reasons, including test accuracy, the financial burden of fertility testing, and your emotional involvement. Would you feel more comfortable meeting a doctor face-to-face when learning your fertility scores? Or do you feel confident enough to decode the results on your own? Would you rather have a doctor help you establish a plan to monitor and manage your fertility from the get-go? Or, are you confident conferring with a doctor after receiving your at-home results?
Another reason an office visit can be beneficial in addition to the three main fertility tests (FSH, AMH, and an ultrasound), there are other diagnostic testing such as SHG and HSG that can help determine if there is something interfering with a positive pregnancy outcome.
Take the intimidation out of fertility testing and understand the steps, tools, and all your resources. If you still want more answers about where to go next in your fertility journey, we recommend seeing a specialist who can guide you on a specifically tailored pathway to your goals… a family, egg-freezing, or simply, just answers.
Do you have more questions about infertility?
Schedule a consultation today to get all of your questions answered!
Brigitte Alicea is an accredited IVF nurse who joined the team at Illume Fertility in 2009. She has previously served as Illume's Assistant Director of Nursing and as the Manager of Surgical Services. Brigitte’s passion is providing high-quality care to each patient going through infertility, while offering emotional support along the way.