How do I know if I need to see a Fertility Specialist?

Your Ob/Gyn can answer many of your preliminary fertility questions and run some basic tests, but at some point in your conception journey, you may need to seek the help of an Infertility Specialist – also known as a Reproductive Endocrinologist or RE. How do you know if you fall under the seemingly ominous category of “infertile”? Infertility is generally defined as the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse (6 months if the woman is over 35). We generally broaden the definition to include cases where a woman has had 3 or more consecutive miscarriages, since this can indicate implantation issues that should be evaluated and treated by a specialist.

It is estimated that about 10-20% of couples experience difficulty conceiving at some point. Approximately 40% of infertility issues can be attributed to the male, about 40% to the female, and the remaining 20% are a combination of both, or deemed “unexplained” infertility.

Here are some other indications or “warning signs” that you may need to consult with a fertility specialist:

Age >35: The natural effect of the “biological clock” results in fewer eggs being available each month for ovulation, AND a deterioration in egg quality. As a result, the likelihood of ovulating a chromosomally normal egg each month is lower than in women in their 20’s and early 30’s. It is estimated that even in young women, approximately 2/3 of all eggs have chromosomal abnormalities. This increases to around 90% as a woman reaches her early to mid-forties.

Irregular Periods: This can be an indication of ovulation problems, which can compromise fertility.

Heavy periods and/or painful cramping: If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor. They could be related to fertility problems.

Prior history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Diseases such as chlamydia and gonnorhea can result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, causing pelvic scarring and potentially blocked fallopian tubes.

Chronic illnesses (in male or female partner) such as diabetes or hypothyroidism: These can result in an exaggerated immune response, which can hinder embryo implantation.

Being extremely underweight or overweight: Excessive weight can result in overproduction of estrogen, which can act in the same way as the birth control pill – actually preventing pregnancy. Conversely, being underweight can result in a lack of estrogen, potentially disrupting the menstrual cycle and compromising fertility.

Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption:Smoking has a detrimental effect on many of the systems of the human body, including the reproductive system. Women that smoke are 60% more likely to experience infertility than non-smokers. Women with high or frequent alcohol intake have been found to have higher rates of menstrual disorders, including amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and irregular menstrual periods.

Cancer Treatment:Chemotherapy and/or radiation can permanently hinder reproductive function.

If you are having difficulty conceiving and aren’t sure where to start, fill out the form to the right to schedule a consultation with a SIRM doctor or you can call your nearest SIRM center (find a list of phone numbers here) to set up a comprehensive consultation with one of our doctors. They can help you get your bearings and develop a custom-tailored plan for diagnosis and treatment.