Preliminary Female Fertility Tests - Post-Coital Testing
During the process of preliminary female fertility testing, a post-coital test (PCT) can be an informative tool in the diagnosis of common female fertility problems. As such, this fertility test can help establish the appropriate course of treatment for female infertility through the analysis of the cervical mucus. In addition, a post-coital test is also sometimes used in male fertility testing in order to evaluate sperm motility.
Post-Coital Test Procedure
Also known as a Simns-Huhner test, a post-coital test evaluates cervical mucus with regard to its health and its ability to allow fertilisation to occur. It also assesses the ability of the sperm to function in the cervical mucus, namely, to travel through the cervical mucus in order to fertilize the egg.
This type of female fertility test is performed shortly prior to ovulation, when the cervical mucus is most amenable to the process of fertilisation. Cervical mucus changes in consistency and color throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle; during a woman’s less fertile periods, it is white and thick while during ovulation – when a woman is most fertile – it is stretchy, thin and clear. This thinner consistency enables the sperm to have easier access to the uterus so that fertilisation and conception can occur.
Samples of cervical mucus are collected 2 to 8 hours following intercourse in order to assess both the cervical mucus as well as sperm ability to pass through the mucus.
Preparing for A Post-Coital Test
Because this type of female infertility test is so intrinsically linked to your reproductive cycle, it is important that you take proper steps in order to prepare for it.
The necessary preparation required for a PCT are as follows:
- monitor your basal body temperature (BBT) in order to assess if ovulation is occurring
- take a lutenizing hormone (LH) test in order to confirm that ovulation has occurred
- once you have determined that you are ovulating, book an appointment for a PCT at your fertility clinic
- intercourse should take place two to eight hours prior to testing; lubricants should not be used and you should avoid douching or tub bathing following intercourse
During a post-coital test, your health care provider will insert a metal or plastic speculum into the vagina; this will expose the cervix.
Your fertility specialist will then collect a sample of cervical mucus, which will subsequently be transferred onto a slide for analysis in the laboratory.
Post-Coital Test Results
The results of your post-coital test will generally be available within one to two days. During analysis, your cervical mucus will be assessed for texture and consistency, as well as for the presence of moving sperm.
Normal test results will feature regular cervical mucus as well as healthy sperm that is moving towards the uterus in a forward motion. Cervical mucus is also identified as being healthy when it is able to stretch for a minimum of 2 inches and when it dries in a fern-like pattern.
Alternatively, abnormal test results are identified in cases when the cervical mucus is unable to stretch for a minimum of 2 inches and does not dry in a fern-like pattern. Also, sperm will generally not be able to swim towards the uterus and sperm clumping and a large quantity of dead sperm may also be identified.
Abnormal test results can help assess what types of treatment, such as methods of assisted reproduction or fertility drugs, can help you and your partner conceive.