The low-down on what happens at fertility check-ups. By Joyce Teo
Consider going for fertility health checks and tests if you have difficulty conceiving. Photo: dolgachov / www.123rf.com
If you have been trying for a child for more than a year without any luck, you may want to go for a fertility health test to see if either you or your partner has a fertility problem that can be treated. Such a health check offers a snapshot of the couple’s reproductive potential, said Dr Steven Teo, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Thomson Fertility Centre. It allows for timely intervention if fertility issues are detected. Dr Teo gives the lowdown on such checks:
• Who should go: Any couple intending to conceive may go for a fertility health check.
These include newlyweds and women above 35 years old who are trying to conceive for the first time. This check is also suitable for women who experience symptoms such as menstrual cramps, pelvic pain and irregular periods, or suspect that they might have medical problems affecting their fertility.
• What to expect: A typical check involves a consultation of 20 to 40 minutes per couple and lab tests.There will be in-depth interviews with both partners to screen for possible medical and fertility problems. This is followed by a pelvic scan and a detailed examination of the female reproductive organs.
The fertility specialist will schedule a blood test for the female partner to assess her hormonal balance, egg reserve, ovulatory status and to screen for infections as well as thalassemia. There is also a semen analysis to check if the male partner’s sperm quantity and quality are normal. The semen sample can be collected at the clinic via masturbation after two to seven days of abstinence, or at home, as long as the sample is submitted in person within an hour of production. It can also be collected via sexual intercourse using a special anti- spermicidal condom or the Male-Pak condom, which can be bought only at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital pharmacy.
When the test results are ready, the couple will visit the specialist to review the results.
• Where to go: Dr Teo said a health check should ideally be done at a fertility clinic, with a gynaecologist who is experienced in detecting and treating fertility problems. The most important part is to decide on which tests are relevant for a patient, which day of the cycle to perform these tests and how to interpret the results of each person, taking into account both the male and female factors.
The doctor must be familiar with the objectives and limitations of these tests and assimilate the results together with the findings at the interview, scan and examination stages. He can then arrive at a diagnosis and formulate a sensible management plan.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline ‘Baby blues and fertility health checks‘.