Preparing to start a family takes a lot more than assessing your finances and reworking your living space. A good place to start is making sure you and your partner are in the best health possible when trying to conceive. From ordering a semen analysis to carrier testing, there are a number of medical assessments available that can help make the conception process easier and give you insights into the health of your future child.
While these types of tests are especially useful if you have a family history that includes a birth defect, developmental disability, or genetic condition, there’s no harm in gathering as much information as possible before you start trying to conceive. Read on to find out which tests to consider when trying to conceive, including a semen analysis and carrier screening, how sperm freezing can help, and how else you can prepare when trying to conceive.
- Some tests to consider before trying to conceive include a semen analysis, hormone testing, and genetic carrier testing.
- Sperm freezing can help preserve your sperm at its youngest and healthiest state should your plans change or you decide to use assisted reproductive technology, like IUI or IVF.
- Other ways to prepare when trying to conceive include adopting a healthy lifestyle, assessing your living situation, sorting out your finances, understanding your benefits, and talking about parenting expectations.
Testing options before trying to conceive
From checking on your fertility to undergoing carrier screening for genetic diseases, getting tested before trying to conceive can help you address medical issues early. Testing early can also inform your decisions about the pregnancy itself, such as when you should actually start trying to conceive, whether or not you should consider using a donor egg or sperm, and more. Here are the most common tests to consider when trying to conceive:
Fertility testing is often considered the female partner’s issue, even though sperm is equally important when trying to conceive. Male fertility issues account for as many as 40–50% of infertility cases. A semen analysis is a simple, non-invasive test that provides comprehensive data on your fertility, so you can address any issues preventatively when trying to conceive. For instance, if your semen analysis indicates you have low sperm count or poor sperm motility, your doctor may investigate if there are infections that need to be treated or put you on a plan to improve your sperm through lifestyle changes. They may also discuss assisted reproductive technology (ART) techniques like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In the past, having your semen tested required visiting a clinic to produce a sample. However, Legacy’s at-home semen test allows you to perform the test from the comfort of your home. Not only do you collect your sample at home, but state-of-the-art transport media allows you to mail it directly to the lab and receive results in as little as a week. While many other at-home semen tests merely test sperm count and concentration, Legacy’s at-home semen analysis provides insights into five key metrics of sperm health: volume, count, concentration, motility, and morphology. You’ll receive personalized recommendations based on your results and have the option to schedule a call with a fertility expert who can answer questions and provide guidance on next steps.
Who should consider performing a semen analysis?
Anyone can benefit from a semen analysis, whether you’re trying to conceive in the near or distant future. Doing sperm testing early on in the process of trying to conceive can help you avoid costly and unnecessary tests or treatments down the line. Early sperm testing can help ensure your sperm is in its best possible shape when you’re ready to start a family.
While testosterone is the most popular hormone when people think of male fertility, there are others that are just as important, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). They all work together to control sperm production, sexual function, and sex drive, and when there are imbalances, hormone therapy or other medication may be recommended. Hormone testing before trying to conceive can help reveal these imbalances as well as the medical conditions that may be contributing to them, such as injuries, genetic diseases, or even certain tumors. The analysis is typically performed as a simple blood test.
Who should consider hormone testing?
Difficulty getting pregnant is one of the main reasons people seek hormone testing. You may also choose to get tested if the results of your semen analysis were abnormal, such as having low sperm count, sperm motility issues, or sperm morphology issues when trying to conceive. Some other signs you may have a hormonal imbalance include reduced body hair growth, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and fatigue.
Carrier genetic testing is a type of genetic testing used to determine if a person is a carrier for specific autosomal recessive diseases. Carrier screening helps to assess the risk of your future child inheriting a genetic disease so you can make informed decisions on how to move forward with a pregnancy — whether you choose to use IVF and screen for the disease or continue with the pregnancy as originally planned.
Who should consider carrier screening?
A common reason people opt for carrier screening when trying to conceive is because they have a family history of a genetic condition or because they belong to an ethnic group with a higher risk of developing a genetic disease. However, even if you’re not sure of your family history, you can still undergo genetic carrier testing. Being a carrier means you may be able to pass a disease on to your offspring, which is why genetic carrier testing and carrier screening is recommended for all.
Also known as cryopreservation, sperm freezing is another step you can take before trying to conceive. If your semen analysis comes back as normal and your sperm is determined to be of high quality, freezing it at its youngest and healthiest can help protect its viability even if your plans change when trying to conceive or if your partner runs into their own fertility issues. If you find that you will need to use your sperm for a procedure like IUI or IVF, you will likely need to freeze your sperm to prepare it for insemination.
Like sperm testing, traditional sperm freezing required a trip to a clinic. But Legacy’s at-home sperm-freezing kits allow you to freeze your sperm from home with an easy mail-in kit that lets you keep it preserved for as long as you need, with flexible, affordable sperm storage plans. In fact, every semen analysis order comes with the option to freeze your sperm for an extra cost.
Other steps to take before trying to conceive
Beyond checking on your fertility health and considering genetic carrier testing and carrier screening, there are a number of other ways you can prepare before trying to conceive, to ensure the smoothest journey possible:
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Having a baby (and caring for one) is as physically and emotionally taxing as it is rewarding. The person carrying the baby should visit their primary care physician as soon as possible for an annual check-up. Getting blood work and vaccinations can help identify or prevent illness when trying to conceive, both prior to or during pregnancy. And they should begin taking prenatal vitamins for about three months prior to conception to ensure they have all the necessary nutrients for pregnancy.
Both partners should make sure their lifestyles are conducive to conception and pregnancy, which may mean cutting down on alcohol and smoking, following a healthier diet, and establishing a moderate exercise routine when trying to conceive. While the person carrying the baby should already be taking prenatal vitamins, the other partner should consider taking male fertility supplements containing certain vitamins, antioxidants, and herbs to increase libido, improve levels of reproductive hormones, and boost sperm health.
Assess your living situation
If you already feel cramped in your home, adding a new person can make it feel even smaller. It’s best to work out your ideal living situation before trying to conceive so you don’t add the burden of looking for a new place or remodeling when you’re already expecting. Keep in mind that while your newborn might share your room in those first few months of life — making your small place feel like a cozy, protected nest — as your child grows, you’ll want to ensure you have enough space to accommodate you all.
Get your finances in order
Assessing your living situation may also mean taking a good look at your finances and having conversations about the costs of raising a child with your partner. Not only is there the cost of having the baby, but also the ongoing expenses of raising a child, paying for childcare (approximately $16,000 a year), and saving for future investments like a college education, their first car, or helping them buy a home. While you aren’t expected to have a budget drawn up for all of these costs right now, getting the conversation going early can help you plan ahead.
Understand your benefits and health insurance coverage
In the U.S., the average cost of childbirth is $18,865 under large insurance plans. This does not include the amount spent on health insurance premiums or extra bills incurred from out-of-network providers or non-medical procedures and services. Getting an idea of what your insurance covers before trying to conceive can help you put aside the right amount so you don’t get blindsided by a bill when you’re taking your baby home.
It’s important to note that once the baby is born, all medical care provided to them in the hospital (such as vitamin supplementation and testing) is billed separately from the care provided to the parent. Find out when you should add your new baby to your insurance plan to ensure these expenses are covered.
And what about your parental leave benefits? Learn what percentage of your salary is paid to you while you’re on leave and whether both parents get leave, or just one. You can get answers to questions like these by scheduling a call with your human resources department before trying to conceive.
Talk about your parenting styles and expectations
Attachment parenting? Sleep training? Baby sign language? There seems to be a new parenting craze every week and it can be overwhelming as a new parent to decide which one is right for you.
Figuring out what kind of parent you want to be will likely evolve over time, but loading up on information before you actually become one can give you a head start. Talk with your partner about everything from discipline and schooling to how you’ll involve your extended family before trying to conceive. Share what you hope to model from your own parents’ approach and/or what you hope to do differently.
It’s also crucial that you talk about what you want your life to look like when you do become new parents. How will you divide domestic work? Who will be responsible for caring, feeding, cleaning up, cooking, and everything else that comes with running a household? Those first few months as a new parent can feel like a blur, so it’s best to plan as much as you can while you’re still getting a solid night of sleep. Plan ahead while you can, but keep in mind that even the most prepared will be thrown a curveball from time to time. When that happens, try your best to go with the flow.