How Do I Know if I’m Struggling with Infertility?
The textbook definition of infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying. However, there are certain groups of patients that are at higher risk for fertility issues and shouldn’t wait a full year before seeing a Fertility Specialist.
You might have a few important questions. What exactly does a Fertility Specialist do? What makes them different from an Ob/Gyn or primary care doctor? How do you know when to see a fertility specialist?
The Value of Seeing a Fertility Specialist
A Fertility Specialist is someone trained in all aspects of reproductive biology. They have spent years studying fertility in women and men.
Your Ob/Gyn can certainly help address some of your basic questions about fertility and may even do some basic testing and treatment. However, a Fertility Specialist dedicates their entire professional life to medical fertility issues. They are well-versed in the latest research and techniques to help patients conceive successfully.
When to See a Fertility Specialist
Being more informed about your reproductive health allows you to make better choices about what is right for you and your family. So, when should you see a Fertility Specialist? Here are 10 sure signs you should make an appointment.
1. You are under age 35 and have been trying to conceive for a year without success.
This is the classic definition of infertility. If you take a young, fertile couple without any fertility issues, they have about a 20-25% chance of successfully conceiving each month they try.
With time, fertile couples will eventually achieve success. After 3 months of trying to conceive, 57% of couples will be pregnant. After 6 months, 72% will be pregnant. After 12 months, 85% of couples will be pregnant.
If you haven’t successfully conceived after a year of trying, it’s usually a sign that there’s a fertility problem and it’s my job as a Fertility Specialist to figure out what that problem is and how we can fix it or work around it to help you succeed.
2. You are over age 35 and have been trying to conceive for 6 months without success.
As women get older, the likelihood of getting pregnant goes down largely because egg quality declines with time. Egg quality and fertility potential begin declining much more quickly after age 35.
Keeping this in mind, this is why we recommend only 6 months of trying for women in this age range. If over the age of 40, women should see a Fertility Specialist right away. Fertility drops off quickly after age 40 and women are not only at a higher risk of infertility at this age, but they are also at an increased risk of a miscarriage if they do become pregnant.
3. You have suffered 2 or more miscarriages.
One in 4 women will experience a miscarriage during their reproductive years. But just because they are common doesn’t mean they are insignificant.
Miscarriages are incredibly difficult emotionally, physically, and psychologically and they can be a heavy burden on women trying to conceive. Women who have experienced 2 or more miscarriages have what’s known as recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
There are several well-known causes and risk factors for recurrent miscarriages. A Fertility Specialist can review these causes with you. They may also perform testing to see if you have any risk factors and counsel you about strategies to reduce the risk of miscarrying in the future.
4. You have tried 3 or more Clomid cycles without success.
Clomid is a medication that is sometimes prescribed by an Ob/Gyn to help patients ovulate. If you have tried 2 or 3 rounds of Clomid with your doctor and either didn’t respond to the medication, didn’t ovulate, or didn’t get pregnant, it’s time to see an expert.
Fertility Specialists possess an intimate knowledge of the latest medication-based treatments for helping people conceive. We can try using the same medication in different ways or try a new strategy to help you improve your chances of a successful pregnancy.
5. You have irregular periods or don’t ovulate regularly.
If you are someone who experiences infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles or if you have been told you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it’s important to consider seeing a Fertility Specialist right away. An irregular period may indicate that you are not ovulating or releasing a mature egg during your cycle, which is a necessary step to getting pregnant naturally.
PCOS is the most common cause of ovulatory problems. A Fertility Specialist can help figure out why your cycles are irregular and then offer some strategies to get your body back on track to help you get pregnant.
6. You have problems with your uterus.
The uterus is the home of pregnancy and there can be problems with the uterus that can prevent you from successfully conceiving or even increase your risk of miscarriage. If you have been told or know that you have fibroids, polyps, scar tissue, or some other issue with your uterus, talk to a Fertility Specialist right away.
If you have had previous surgeries on your uterus like a D&C, fibroid removal (myomectomy), or C-section, this is also worth discussing with a Specialist because these procedures can cause scarring inside your uterus. The good news about uterine problems is that in the majority of cases they can be fixed by a Fertility Specialist or gynecologic surgeon.
7. You have endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disease characterized by painful periods, irregular bleeding, pain during sex, and infertility. Endometriosis can contribute to infertility in several different ways. It can cause scarring which distorts your reproductive anatomy making it difficult for eggs and sperm to meet.
Endometriomas, which are endometriotic cysts in the ovaries, can destroy healthy ovarian tissue and eggs. Endometriosis can even affect the lining of the uterus, which can impair implantation. Patients with endometriosis are at high risk of having infertility and should speak with a Fertility Specialist right away.
8. Your tubes are blocked or damaged.
The fallopian tubes are responsible for catching the egg once it’s released by the ovary. If one or both of your fallopian tubes are blocked this can decrease your chances of getting pregnant naturally.
If both of your tubes are blocked, in vitro fertilization (IVF) should be considered. A Fertility Specialist can help determine if you have risk factors for tubal blockage and discuss the different ways you can make sure your tubes are open.
9. Your partner has a problem with his sperm.
With all this talk about eggs, we don’t want to forget about the importance of healthy sperm. In about 30% of the infertility cases we see, the malefactor is the primary issue. If your partner has had a semen analysis, review the results with a Fertility Specialist.
There can often be clues in the semen analysis that explain why you may be having trouble conceiving. If your partner hasn’t had any testing, a Fertility Specialist can order testing that may be necessary to make sure there aren’t issues with the sperm.
10. You want to learn more about your fertility potential and family building options.
You don’t need to be experiencing a fertility problem to see a Fertility Specialist. In fact, I see many patients who just want to know where their fertility stands.
Egg freezing for women who aren’t quite ready to start a family is becoming more and more common and takes less than 2 weeks to complete. If you are in a same-sex relationship and want to use donor eggs, donor sperm, or a gestational carrier, or if you are single and want to start your family a Fertility Specialist can also help you understand all your options and walk you through the process.
Are You Ready to See a Fertility Specialist?
Whether you are having trouble getting pregnant or if you just want to learn more about your fertility potential and options, talking to a Fertility Specialist can be really helpful. We will meet you where you are and be your partner on your journey.