Lifestyle Assessments and Lab Testing for Fertility Health for Women
Conception isn’t always as easy as one might think. As many as 16% of couples in the United States have trouble conceiving. About one third of issues is from female disorders, one-third from male disorders, and the remaining third has unknown causes (1).
After 6 months to a year of trying to conceive with no success, a couple may want to consider assistance. Some couples may need to support fertility health through nutrition and lifestyle guidance, while others may need Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART).
Either way, before jumping into ART, the next step should be a thorough lifestyle assessment, physical exam, and lab testing to gauge the couple’s fertile markers.
What is a lifestyle assessment?
When first working with a couple seeking help, it is important to assess the medical history, current diet, and lifestyle. Given that a significant number of infertility issues cannot be explained, a couples-based approach to assess lifestyle factors is a cost-effective way to support reproductive success.
There is a strong association between diet, exercise and other psychosocial factors that affect ovulation, conception, implantation, and embryonic and fetal development (2). Modifiable factors in both men’s and women’s daily lives can positively affect endocrine and metabolic pathways that are critical for reproduction.
Factors that a healthcare provider may look at:
Key labs to test fertility health
The next step is testing for key fertility markers, as well as general bloodwork, to get the best picture of the physiological aspects that may be the obstacle to a healthy conception and pregnancy. Many of the important labs are run on Day 3 of a woman’s menstrual cycle, while progesterone is the only marker checked 7 days after ovulation or Day 21 of a 28-day cycle.
Why functional normal or fertile ranges may not be accurate
When looking at labwork results, “normal ranges” are provided as a guide with the lab results. Have you ever felt like there is something not right with your health, but your doctor told you that “all your labs are within normal ranges”? This is why many naturopathic, integrative, and functional doctors don’t look at the “functional normal” or fertile ranges that apply to those in optimal overall health and fertility health. They instead focus on symptoms.
Fertility lab testing ranges
When you are working with your healthcare provider and fertility expert, discuss the following labs to ensure a clear picture of your optimal fertility:
AMH – Fertile range 1-4 ng/mL
Estradiol – Day 3 – Fertile range: 25-75 pg/ml
Progesterone – 7 days past ovulation or day 21 of 28 day cycle – Fertile range: >15 mg/ml
17-Hydroxyprogesterone – Day 3 – Fertile range: 20-100 ng/dl; Luteal phase – 100-500 ng/dl
Prolactin – Day 3 – Normal range <24 ng/ml
TSH – Functional normal range: 1.0-1.7 mIU/ml
Free Triiodothyronine (Free T3) – Functional normal range: 3.5-4.4 pg/ml
Free Thyroxine (Free T4) – Functional normal range: 1.5-2 ng/dl
Total Testosterone – Functional normal range: 20-30 ng/dl
Free Testosterone – Functional normal range: 2-3.6 pg/ml
DHEA-S – Functional normal range: 75-150 ug/dl
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) – Functional normal range: 18-114 nmol/l
Fasting Insulin – Functional normal range: <10 mlU/ml
Depending on your circumstances, you may need additional imaging or further advanced testing. These tend to be more invasive and range from an ultrasound of the uterus (sonohysterogram) to detect fibroids or other abnormalities, to a hysterosalpingogram to look for anatomical issues in the uterus and fallopian tubes that may be blocking a successful pregnancy.