When to See a Fertility Specialist
What is infertility & when should you see a fertility specialist?
When it comes to fertility struggles and the decision to seek professional help, it can be difficult for couples to determine if they are really facing infertility, or if they are experiencing a normal timeframe for achieving pregnancy. The following infertility definitions can help you decide when to seek help:
- Infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant within 12 months of unprotected sex by couples in which the woman is younger than 35 years of age and has no major medical problems.
- For couples in which the woman is over 35 years of age, infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant after six months of unprotected sex.
If a man, woman or couple answers Yes to either of these two situations, they should see a fertility specialist.
It is also advised that couples see a fertility specialist if:
- Either partner has a history of STDs (specifically chlamydia or gonorrhea)
- A woman has irregular or no menstruation
- A woman has a history of pelvic infections or previous abdominal surgeries
- A woman has severe pain during menstruation (may be a symptom of endometriosis)
- A woman has a history of three or more miscarriages
- A man has sexual problems, including difficulty with erection and/or ejaculation
- A man has had an abnormal semen analysis.
Causes of infertility
One or both partners may have conditions contributing to fertility issues. As such, fertility specialists typically begin the process of diagnosis and treatment with an initial examination and consultation with both partners. The couple is evaluated even when a specific medical condition is found in one of the partners, as the female or male partner may have coexisting conditions contributing to their infertility.
For women, infertility can be caused by:
- Advancing age
- Health & lifestyle influences such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and level of physical activity
- Ovulation and fallopian tube disorders
- Uterine abnormalities
- Conditions such as uterine fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis
- Endocrine disorders (thyroid disorders, etc.)
- Sexually transmitted infections
- History of pelvic surgery or surgery for gynecologic cancers.
For men, infertility can be caused by:
- Age & lifestyle factors
- Issues with sperm quality and/or quantity
- Ejaculatory disorders
- Genetic abnormalities
- Cancer treatment.
How to choose the right fertility specialist
Once a couple has determined that seeing a fertility specialist is recommended, the final step is finding a reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) specialist to assess their specific needs. While OB/GYN doctors can help identify fertility issues in women and urologists can help discover the cause of infertility in men, the most qualified specialist to address infertility is a physician who is fellowship-trained and board certified as a reproductive endocrinologist.
Reproductive endocrinologists specialize in performing the most advanced infertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). They are also trained in both male and female infertility, which is essential for complete evaluation of a couple trying to conceive.
Asking the following questions during a consultation should help couples make sure they select the best doctor and practice for their situation:
- What is the doctor’s philosophy and treatment approach for patients?
- How much does treatment cost (and how much of it will my insurance cover)?
- What are the clinics’ pregnancy and live birth success rates?
- Which procedures does the clinic offer?
- Does the clinic have an age limit for treatment?
- How long has the clinic been in existence?
Are you having trouble getting pregnant, but not quite sure where to begin? Call us for a free fertility consultation.