When a couple is preparing for conception, lab testing can be an invaluable tool in determining fertility status. These tests can be ordered by your Family Doctor, Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and also a Fertility Specialist. Here are my top 5 tests:
Why is the thyroid important in fertility? If there is thyroid dysfunction, there can be difficulty in conceiving, increased chance of miscarriage and it could cause impairment in normal fetal development.
Thyroid panel – This test measures T3, T4, TSH and TPO. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is the main test requested when evaluating thyroid health. Adding T3 and T4 can provide a better picture for a healthcare provider to assess thyroid health. The thyroid peroxidase antibody test (TPO) may determine an autoimmune component which in turn may point to future thyroid dysfunction.
Hormone panel – This measures the standard female hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, LH, FSH, testosterone and prolactin. An imbalance in any of these hormone levels may impair ovulation and make conception more difficult.
Why are cortisol levels important in fertility? When cortisol levels are high, there is less chance for conception and increased risk of miscarriage. In pregnancy, there may be an increased chance of premature birth or underweight babies.
This is a test many ND’s use to assess whether elevated stress levels may be playing a role in preventing conception. If cortisol levels are elevated, ND’s often use acupuncture to reduce a woman’s stress levels.
Ultrasound – This test is now used as an important tool when assessing fertility. It can be used to view the pelvic organs (uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes). It can show growing ovarian follicles and predict ovulation more accurately than any blood test.
Why B12? This vitamin is required for proper red blood cell formation and is important in neurological functioning. Deficiencies in a pregnant mom can lead to adverse effects in mom and baby.
Why ferritin? This is the most sensitive test to assess iron stores in the body. A large study confirmed that women who consumed iron supplements had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility than women who did not use iron supplementation.
Why Vitamin D? A 2016 study in Germany showed that a very high percentage of women at two fertility clinics had Vitamin D deficiency (98.2% at one centre and 81.3% at another centre). This suggests a potential therapeutic benefit to women with fertility concerns. In addition, other research demonstrates an increase risk of miscarriage in women with Vitamin D deficiency.
These tests are recommended by an ND and involve B12, ferritin (storage form of iron) and Vitamin D. They are important for determining deficiencies and assist with appropriate dosing. Many women take a prenatal vitamin when trying to conceive, but how many women know their vitamin levels? When a standard prenatal is prescribed, it may have a too little or too high dosage of key nutrients required for a healthy pregnancy. Folic acid is often discussed in preventing neural tube defects but these tests are also important for normal fetal development.
If we are looking for answers for possible causes of fertility, we have to take a proactive route. The above tests can help shed light on some of the main concerns seen by fertility specialists. Before taking any supplement, talk to your healthcare provider who will assess your individual needs.