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An Overview of Blood Tests for Infertility

written by: weborglodge • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/6/2011

Infertility blood tests provide valuable clues as to what may be the underlying cause of male or female infertility. These tests are some of the fact-finding tools your doctor will use to diagnose and treat infertility.

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    Infertility Blood Tests for Women

    infant baby boy Infertility blood tests for women help identify possible causes which may not have any noticeable symptoms. Physical abnormalities to the fallopian tubes or cervix may prevent pregnancy from occurring. It may also be caused by ovulation disorders which, understanding infertility blood tests can reveal. About one-quarter of cases involve difficulties with ovulation.

    One type of blood test used simply detects if ovulation is occurring by measuring the level of progesterone which is secreted after it occurs. Tests for luteinizing hormone (LH) detect changes in this hormone leading up to ovulation. Other hormones may also play a role including the thyroid and pituitary glands.

    Low levels of hormones which stimulate ovulation may affect its occurrence. Normal range for a LH test is greater than 20 milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/ml) 2 days before ovulation. A normal level on day 3 of the menstrual cycle is under 7 mIU/ml. In conjunction with this test, your doctor may also order a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test.

    This test may reveal pituitary disorders. It can also help diagnose diseases of the ovaries. Normal range for the FSH test is 3 to 20 mIU/ml. Its ratio to LH is also important. If your LH level is higher than the FSH, this can indicate polycystic ovary disease which can be a barrier to pregnancy. This condition describes the formation of cysts within the ovaries which prevent pregnancy.

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    Tests for Male Infertility

    Tests for hormone levels in men also provide clues to the cause of infertility. Your doctor may first investigate the levels of testosterone. A normal range is 270-1100 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). As with women, some hormone tests are most enlightening when looking at levels of other hormones. In men, FSH and LH levels may also be tested, especially when testosterone levels are abnormal. Normal levels for FSH range from 1 to 18 mIU/ml. For LH, 2 to 18 mIU/ml is considered normal.

    If testosterone, FSH and LH levels are all low, this can indicate a decreased function of the male testes, which identifies a disorder of the pituitary or hypothalamus gland. Understanding infertility blood tests shows the complex nature of the reproductive and endocrine systems of the human body.

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    Diagnosis of Infertility

    Infertility blood tests are used with other diagnosis tools to pinpoint the cause of infertility. The advantage of the blood tests is that they are non-invasive. It is essential that infertility tests be done in both partners. Up to 40 percent of infertility cases may be problems with both the man and the woman. Hormone levels provide only a partial picture. Your doctor may call for other testing which examines you and your partner's health which may also cause infertility.

    Fortunately, medical science provides the means for helping to identify the cause of your infertility. With proper diagnosis, you and your partner will take the first important steps toward realizing your dreams of family.

    Photo by Justyna Furmanczyk

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Infertility mayoclinic.com

    National Institutes of Health: Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism nlm.nih.gov

    WebMD: Infertility Tests - Overview