Fertility Testing After 30
Many women are choosing to have children later on in life, but pregnancy at an older age can carry risks of infertility and hinder a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. It is generally agreed that a woman’s fertility begins to decline after the age of thirty, and age is usually considered the strongest predictor of female fertility. This is because a woman’s eggs are not renewed and, along with time and age, risk factors such as chromosomal abnormalities and health complications decrease fertility potential.
However, many women over the age of 30 experience healthy and successful pregnancies. If you and your partner are planning a pregnancy, and are concerned about fertility at your age, there are several fertility tests that may be taken prior to pregnancy that can provide you with information about your fertility even if you are not experiencing the symptoms of infertility.
At-Home Fertility Tests
Being aware of your menstrual cycle is generally the first recommendation made to patients who are trying to conceive. This is especially important for women over the age of 30 who are concerned about their chances of getting pregnant. Keeping a fertility calendar and tracking your ovulation dates will help you determine the dates during which you are at increased odds of getting pregnant.
Ovulation predictor kits are available for at-home fertility testing, and work by testing a woman’s urine sample for increased luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. Luteinizing hormones are released by the pituitary gland in the female reproductive system and function to induce the release of eggs by the ovaries. Increased levels can thus be detected between 24-48 hours prior to ovulation, indicating the best time for conception.
Another way of testing a woman’s natural fertility cycle is based on the secretion of mucus. During ovulation, cervical mucus changes and becomes thinner to allow the sperm easier access to the fallopian tubes and uterus. A woman can perform her own mucus test by checking the consistency of cervical mucus between her thumb and finger. These fingers can stretch between 1-2 inches apart during ovulation when mucus is thinner and will stay intact.
Mucus test kits are also available for at-home infertility testing, and rely on saliva samples, which are either read electronically, or under a microscope to detect fern-like patterns.
Both mucus and ovulation predictor kits range between $20-$200 each, and work on the basis of helping a woman determine the period during which her natural fertility is increased. It is recommended that a woman under 35 use timing methods for up to a year and a half before seeking consultation from a health care provider regarding pregnancy and fertility. For women over 35 using these techniques, it is recommended that consultation be sought if pregnancy does not occur after six months.
If you are over the age of 30, and are concerned about age and pregnancy, your first step in receiving medical advice will most likely be a physical examination by a family practitioner or OB/GYN specialist.
Your doctor will ask you several questions about your health history, menstrual cycle and sexual habits, and perform a routine physical examination. This will include a complete gynecological exam including a pelvic exam, breast exam, and Pap smear. Your doctor will then be able to recommend any specific fertility tests that are appropriate to meet your particular concerns.
One of the most un-intrusive fertility testing methods that may be used to determine fertility in women over 30 is a simple blood test. This may be performed at your health care provider’s office or at a lab and will only take a few minutes. However, women who are experiencing signs of infertility will most likely undergo several blood tests as part of an initial diagnostic procedure of infertility.
A blood test can determine different hormone levels such as LH, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), and estradiol at different stages of the menstrual cycle, which can indicate a woman’s ovarian reserve and thus her reproductive potential based on her egg quantity as well as quality. A blood test performed 7 days after ovulation will look for progesterone levels, which are elevated with the release of an egg during normal ovulation.
Another un-intrusive fertility testing method that may be preformed by your doctor is the ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of internal structures of the body such as the female reproductive organs.
An ultrasound can indicate the presence or absence of follicles that contain and release eggs, and can detect any abnormalities in the ovaries and uterus. An abdominal ultrasound, or pelvic ultrasound, will look for signs that lead to infertility such as uterine fibroids, cysts, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). During a transvaginal ultrasound, female reproductive organs that are harder to see will be examined including the cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.