Blood Tests for Infertility

Submitted by Jenifer on December 20, 2012

Infertility is described as not being able to conceive or stay pregnant. It is divided into two categories, these are:

  • Primary infertility – couples who are trying to get pregnant for at least a year of practicing unprotected sex.
  • Secondary infertility – couples who have been pregnant at least once but are not able to conceive or stay pregnant again.

There are various reasons for infertility which can be either due to physiological or lifestyle related issues in both men and women. Before beginning any treatment, your doctor will recommend certain diagnostic tests for both partners to find out the exact cause or causes of the infertility...

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FSH

FSH or follicle stimulating hormone is a hormone that is responsible for stimulating the development and growth of eggs in women and stimulating growth and development of sperms in men. This hormone is secreted from the pituitary gland. It is important to check FSH levels for infertility as high levels of FSH may be an indication of poor ovarian reserves, which means the quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs are low.


It is however common for women with normal FSH levels may also have poor egg quantity, in which case other ovarian reserve tests are also advised.

This test is usually conducted on the 3rd day of the menstrual cycle, and is also known as the Day 3 FSH blood test but it may also be done on day two or four. Normal levels of FSH are dependent on the assay that is used. The blood test is simple and is conducted like any blood test. FSH levels are also checked via a blood test in men to determine sperm count.

Estradiol

Estradiol is a hormone that is responsible for sexual development and is required for the production of estrogen which is created in the ovaries, and by the adrenal glands in small amounts after puberty. The placenta also produces estrogen during pregnancy. When checking for causes of infertility, an Estradiol blood test is recommended along with the Day 3 FSH levels. This test can determine if the ovaries are functioning normally. Women who have high levels of Estradiol may have infertility problems particularly with the ovarian reserve. Estradiol tests are also recommended for missing periods, abnormal bleeding, damage to the adrenal glands, ovaries or testes in men.

Luteinizing Hormone Level

LH or Luteinizing Hormone level is yet another blood test conducted if you have trouble getting pregnant. LH is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates ovulation in women and the fusion of androgen in men. It is a hormone that is extremely important in the functioning of the testes in men and the functioning of the ovaries in women. Measuring LH levels in the blood can help determine if the fertility is caused due to failure of the ovaries or due to ovarian problems caused by issues with the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland. High levels of LH are normal for women in the menopausal phase but can determine a number of problems if the woman is below the age of 40, like polycystic ovary syndrome, premature menopause, ovulation interference, or genetic conditions that affect the creation of hormones. Low levels of LH will normally mean that you won’t be having your periods. LH triggers ovulation and low levels can prevent ovulation, and subsequently pregnancy.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is quite a common condition that is associated with high levels of LH, resulting in reduced fertility.

Prolactin

Prolactin is a hormone that plays an active role in stimulating milk production after the delivery of a child. The levels of this hormone increases during pregnancy, and work to inhibit ovulation which is why women who have just delivered do not get their periods or become pregnant. High levels of prolactin if a woman is not pregnant or has not delivered a child recently, can be a cause of infertility due to the following reasons:

  • High levels of prolactin can stop ovulation and cause menstrual cycles to cease.
  • Causes intermittent ovulation or take a long time for ovulation to occur.
  • Cause inadequate production of the hormone progesterone after ovulation, commonly known as the luteal phase defect.

Levels of prolactin are measured via a blood test.

Androgen

Although considered a male hormone, androgen is also created by women in their ovaries and adrenal cortex. Almost all the androgen created by women is immediately converted into estrogen. Estrogen is needed in the development of the female sex characteristics, to thicken the endometrium, and for regulation of the menstrual cycle. Androgen levels are checked when testing for infertility as high levels of androgen can cause polycystic ovary syndrome. Women with PCOS do not ovulate normally, which results in infertility.

This test may also be conducted on men to test for infertility or decrease in sex drive.

Reference

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003710.htm
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