When and why to see a fertility doctor: a 5 minute guide

On paper, getting pregnant is easy: 1, 2, 3, some P-in-V, and hello baby! But the reality is much more complicated. You might be like one in eight couples who struggle with infertility. You might be going it alone or in a same-sex relationship. Whatever the case, getting pregnant can sometimes require a little assistance from modern medicine and a fertility doctor. Let’s explore when, why, and how to call in a specialist. 

When to see a fertility doctor

So you’re TTC (that’s ‘pregnancy slang’ for trying to conceive). You might have been tracking your menstrual cycle and ovulation like a pro, having sex during precisely the right window each month, and chowing down on prenatal and fertility vitamins like they’re candy. But to no end. How f*cking frustrating (pun intended). So when might you bite the bullet and see a fertility doctor? 

Dr. Sheeva Talebian, a New York-based board-certified reproductive endocrinologist, explained via an interview with TODAY that it’s wise to seek assistance if you do not see results after trying to conceive.

“Women over the age of 35 who have been trying for more than six months without success should seek help. Women who are over 40, maybe even more immediately. Women under the age of 35 can give it up to a year…” she recommended.

Why you might see a fertility doctor

On top of not seeing results after trying to conceive, Dr. Talebian noted there are other instances in which you’d engage a specialist – and perhaps even sooner than six months. These include: 

  • Blocked fallopian tubes – where your fallopian tubes are blocked with scar tissue from a previous ectopic pregnancy, fibroids, abdominal surgery, or an STI, for example, meaning the sperm can’t meet your egg for fertilization. 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – where a hormonal imbalance causes your egg to either not develop or release as it should during ovulation (so it isn’t meeting sperm for fertilization). 
  • Endometriosis (‘endo’) – where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside the uterus. Having endo can make getting pregnant harder. 
  • Premature or early menopause – when your body stops having periods (a symptom of menopause) at an early age – usually before you’re 40. It indicates a loss of fertility (which f*cking sucks).

If you’ve noticed irregularities in your menstrual cycle 

Your menstrual cycle is a pretty damn important piece of the conception puzzle, and irregularities can cause concern when trying to get pregnant. Not only do they make it hard to know when you’re ovulating to time sex accordingly, they’re likely an indication that you’re not ovulating. Not sure what to look for? One sign is a cycle that is either shorter than 21 days or longer than 35 days. 

If you’ve suffered multiple miscarriages

Miscarriages are upsettingly common and devastating as all hell. While even one pregnancy loss is crushing, multiple can feel… well, there are no words. However, experiencing two or more miscarriages might be a sign of an underlying issue. For example, it could signify that you or your partner have a genetic abnormality that’s being passed on to the embryo, you could have uterine anomalies, or even one of the conditions discussed above, like PCOS.

If your partner notes something is ‘off’ 

Getting pregnant doesn’t just sit with you, sister. Infertility affects men too; in approximately 40 per cent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole or a contributing cause. Men can have issues producing healthy sperm for your egg or ejaculating said sperm, thanks to many factors spanning from erectile dysfunction to genetic defects. So, what tests do doctors do to check fertility in this instance? A sperm count test (called a semen analysis) or a blood test can help diagnose any male infertility.

If you’re seeking alternative options

You don’t need to have a health condition to visit a fertility doctor; for example, you might be going it solo or in a same-sex relationship. We’re lucky to live in the age of modern medicine where there are options for everyone to grow their family, including IVF, egg or sperm donors, and surrogacy. 

A fertility doctor can help diagnose any of these health issues and recommend treatment. And health concerns or not, they can discuss with you different ways you can get pregnant or have a family. 

How to find a good fertility doctor

If you’ve decided to work with a fertility doctor, finding one can seem overwhelming – there are so many out there. So, where to begin your search? You could start by asking your OB-GYN or family doctor for advice. Or, you could hit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website – they have an interactive map tool that reports on the success rates of a wide range of fertility clinics across the United States. 

Then, in terms of how to choose a fertility doctor, look for someone that’s Board Certified specifically in ‘Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility’, and don’t be afraid to shop around – have a preliminary consultation before making a final decision to find the best fertility doctor for you. 

Trying to conceive can be an incredibly stressful time. Let alone trying to understand why it may not be working! “I say this every day to my patients. I say, ‘You cannot give up. In some way, shape, or form, you will be a parent…There are many paths to parenthood’,” concluded Dr. Talebian during her interview with TODAY. 

However pregnancy happens for you, know that it’s different for everyone, and there’s no one way to start a family. We hope this helps you on your adventure to becoming a parent. 

This article does not replace medical advice. If you are concerned about your health or fertility, speak to your doctor or a fertility specialist.

Read next: What’s your fertility by age? Here’s what to know

Resolve.org, Fast Facts

Verywell Family, Blocked Fallopian Tubes: Symptoms & Treatment 

Office On Women’s Health, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Office On Women’s Health, Endometriosis

Office On Women’s Health, Early Or Premature Menopause

Verywell Family, How To Get Pregnant With Irregular Periods

Washington University Physicians, Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Quick Facts About InfertilityJohns Hopkins Medicine, Male Infertility

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