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Finding a Fertility Specialist

The diagnosis and treatment of infertility is a complex and emotional process, which is just one reason why it is so important if you are having trouble getting pregnant that you seek treatment from a doctor who specializes in infertility and has the appropriate training and experience in order to help you conceive.

How do I know if I am infertile?

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse or, when the woman is 35 or older, after six months of unprotected intercourse. Couples who do not conceive in this period of time, as well as women who have had three or more miscarriages, should seek medical assistance. Risk factors for infertility in women include irregular or absent periods, extremely low body fat, endometriosis or tubal damage, or the presence of certain chronic diseases. For men, low sperm count, exposure of the testes to high temperatures and a history of genital infection can all lead to infertility.

About 40 percent of all cases of infertility can be attributed to the woman, 30 percent attributed to the man and 20 percent of cases are caused by a medical problem in both the man and woman. The remaining 10 percent of couples have unexplained infertility, but many of them can still be treated successfully. In order to get the most cost effective and timely treatment, identification of the cause of infertility is crucial. An infertility specialist can diagnose the problem, help you avoid unnecessary procedures and map out with you a plan for treatment.

When should I see a fertility specialist?

Sometimes couples aren't sure when the appropriate time is to see a specialist. There are many factors that might influence your decision, some of which are listed below.

  • Age - The most common cause of infertility is age. As mentioned above, if you are under the age of 35, have regular menstrual periods and have not conceived after twelve months of trying, you should seek a medical evaluation. If you are over the age of 35, you should seek help after trying to conceive for six months. Further, if you are over the age of 39, you should see a specialist after trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for three months. The older you are, the more likely you are to be affected by infertility.
  • Tubal disease - If your OB/GYN has determined that your fallopian tubes are blocked, you should consult a fertility specialist before proceeding with treatment like in vitro fertilization or surgery. Immediate consultation with a specialist can determine the appropriate procedure to treat the problem before any more damage is done.
  • Very low sperm count - You should seek a fertility specialist as soon as possible if a doctor has determined that your male partner's sperm count is very low or zero. Because inseminations, fertility pills and surgeries are usually ineffective with this diagnosis, it is important for you to consult a specialist in order to avoid wasting time and money on unnecessary medications and procedures.

What makes a doctor a fertility specialist?

A fertility specialist is an obstetrician-gynecologist who has had special training in infertility and reproductive endocrinology. Most gynecologists have had some basic training in infertility and are able to perform evaluations and some forms of treatment. For example, the majority of gynecologists are able to perform laparoscopy and hysteroscopy for diagnosis; however, it requires special skills to perform corrective procedures. Gynecologists can diagnose and treat general disorders of the female reproductive system and care for a woman during pregnancy, childbirth and during the postpartum period, but they are not trained in the more advanced reproductive technologies, so it is important to understand the different roles of each.

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