When to See a Fertility Specialist
For millions of women, the road to pregnancy can sometimes be difficult. That’s why it’s important to know when to see a fertility specialist and how this doctor can help you. If you've been working with your family doctor or OB/GYN while trying to get pregnant but haven't had success, it may be time so see a fertility specialist.
What is a fertility specialist?
Fertility specialists are doctors that focus on diagnosing and treating male and female infertility. These doctors have completed four years of medical school and at least four years of residency training in obstetrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) or urology (andrology)
While many fertility specialists are board-certified in reproductive endocrinology, some are not. Fertility specialists may be board-certified in several areas that require additional fellowship training after residency.
What does a fertility specialist do?
A fertility specialist diagnoses and treats problems related to infertility. If you have been trying to get pregnant for a year (or six months if you are over 35) and natural conception is not working, a fertility specialist can diagnose and treat the following infertility problems:
- Problems with ovulation
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Abnormalities of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and/or uterus
Also, if you have had two or more miscarriages, a fertility specialist may diagnose the cause of the miscarriages. The specialist would then guide you in selecting procedures that may help prevent miscarriage so you carry the baby to term.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, a fertility specialist can offer a fertility consult to explain your fertility treatment options, offering you a chance to have a healthy pregnancy.
If you are over 35 or if you want to benefit from assisted reproductive technologies (ART), like in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility specialist can guide you in using the ART process, along with other high-tech procedures.
Can my OB/GYN treat infertility?
Yes, your gynecologist can treat some areas of infertility. Most OB/GYNs can prescribe certain fertility medications like clomiphene citrate (Clomid) to help regulate ovulation. Some OB/GYNs are also trained in performing intrauterine insemination (IUI), as long as your partner’s sperm count is not too low.
Depending on your age and other medical factors, your doctor will advise when it's time to see a fertility specialist after you've tried fertility pills or medication, or IUI cycles without success.
Many OB/GYNs have received just a few weeks of infertility training during residency. Unless their medical practice is focused on fertility issues, a fertility specialist may be the most qualified doctor to help you overcome infertility and finally get pregnant.
Should my partner see the fertility specialist?
If your partner is struggling with male factor infertility, or if you are not sure why you are having trouble getting pregnant, it’s important for you both to see a fertility specialist.
Men with low sperm count or sexual dysfunction may be referred to a urologist or doctor that specializes in male infertility. A urologist who specializes in andrology may be the most highly qualified professional for all aspects of male infertility.
Usually a semen analysis is performed before a couple proceeds to other infertility treatments.
Get the most qualified fertility specialist
Lastly, follow your instincts. You know your body, and if you are trying month after month and can’t get pregnant, go ahead and make an appointment to see a fertility specialist. Remember, if you're under 35 and have been trying for more than a year, or are 35 or older and have been trying for 6 months or more, then you should should see a fertility specialist right away. This can give you peace of mind immediately—and hopefully a baby in your future.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Patient's Fact Sheet: Cancer and Fertility Preservation
- International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc: The Infertility Q & A: Testing with a Reproductive Endocrinologist
- RESOLVE: What is an infertility specialist? Infertility Diagnosis. When to See a Specialist for Infertility. What is an infertility specialist?