How do women get a fertility test?
You might want to have tests to see if your treatment might have had an effect on your fertility.
If you’re having periods
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If you’re having regular periods and aren’t on the pill or taking hormone replacement treatment (HRT), this almost certainly means that you’re fertile. However, this doesn’t guarantee that you will get pregnant.
The usual way to check your fertility is for your doctor to look at your menstrual cycle and do some blood tests at particular times in your cycle. The blood tests look at your sex hormone levels. The tests can also give some information about the number of eggs you may have in your ovaries.
Your GP or cancer doctor can do the tests, but they may ask a fertility specialist to discuss the results with you.
If you’re taking the contraceptive pill or HRT, these can affect your sex hormone levels and make it difficult to assess your fertility. You may be asked to stop taking the pill or HRT for a short time, to help the doctors make the assessment. If you’re sexually active, it’s important to use a reliable form of contraception while you’re having these tests.
If you’re not having periods
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If you finished your cancer treatment at least six months ago and haven’t had any periods, a blood test can show whether your ovaries are still producing eggs.
The test can show whether you’ve become menopausal, which means you’ve stopped producing eggs or are producing fewer and fewer eggs.
If you’re menopausal, your ovaries may still be releasing an egg every now and again. So your doctor will advise you to still use contraception if you’re having sex and don’t want to become pregnant. Your doctor may also recommend that you start taking hormones, either as the contraceptive pill or HRT.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to predict accurately whether a cancer treatment will definitely cause the menopause. But your cancer doctor should be able to tell you whether there’s a chance of you having an early menopause.
If the tests are done on the NHS, they’re free. If you decide to have testing done privately, you will be charged for this.
No, the tests don’t cause any pain, although blood tests can be uncomfortable.
How accurate are the tests?
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The tests can show quite accurately whether you’re fertile or not.
If the tests show normal egg production
If the tests show that your ovaries are producing eggs regularly, or from time to time, you need to use contraception if you’re not planning to become pregnant.
You may find it useful to have the test repeated every year or every few years to make sure that the situation hasn’t changed.
If you’re producing eggs and haven’t become pregnant after two years, a test may be arranged at a fertility clinic to determine whether your fallopian tubes are open.
If the tests show low hormone levels
If your ovaries aren’t producing eggs, or if your hormone levels are very low, you may be advised to have the tests repeated after some time. You can ask your doctor if you’re not sure whether you’ll need more tests. The tests can’t predict what may happen in the future, and it’s fine to ask to be tested again if you have changes in your menstrual cycle or any other related symptoms.