Blood tests are included in a range of fertility investigations to give a full picture of a woman’s hormonal profile and to rule out certain causes of infertility, such as thyroid or pituitary gland problems. The blood tests available include:
The Anti-Mullerian Hormone is produced by the follicles of the ovaries, steadily throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle. Blood levels of this hormone decline with age, so low AMH levels could indicate sub or infertility. AMH tests can also be used as a marker for ovarian reserve (the potential number of eggs remaining in the ovaries) to identify whether a peri-menopausal woman is still capable of conceiving and help couples decide when to start their family.
For women going through IVF, the test can be used to assess egg quality, whether eggs are viable for freezing or whether donor eggs should be used.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. The function of FSH is to stimulate the ovaries to produce and release eggs. It also regulates the menstrual cycle. In young women, only a small amount of FSH is needed but with advancing age, it takes higher amounts of hormone to get the ovaries to do their job. This is why higher levels of FSH can indicate menopause, The test can be used to evaluate whether a woman is ovulating or help a physician diagnose disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome or abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Progesterone is a hormone that maintains pregnancy. It prepares the lining of the uterus to receive a fertilised egg so levels are high after ovulation. If pregnancy has not occurred, levels gradually reduce. This drop in progesterone triggers the menstruation. If pregnancy has occurred, levels of progesterone continue to climb. Low levels of this hormone can result in early miscarriage. A progesterone blood test can help determine if a woman is ovulating, monitor the functioning of her ovaries and identify her particular risk of miscarriage.
If fertility drugs have been given, it can assess whether they are having a positive effect.
Several blood tests for sexually transmitted infections are carried out. This is because STI’s are a cause of infertility. Chlamydia, for example, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease if left untreated. This in turn can damage the fallopian tubes and make getting pregnant difficult. Some people who have had Chlamydia have no symptoms so may be unaware that anything is wrong. Diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B are also tested for as these can be transmitted to an unborn baby via childbirth
This makes STI testing vitally important during a fertility work up and testing is required for all women and couples embarking on IVF and IUI.