It’s hard to decide to go to a fertility doctor when you haven’t been getting pregnant, partly because it feels like it means you’ve lost hope for a natural pregnancy. Plus, it’s expensive!
A new book on fertility offers this helpful health – and financial – advice:
“Unless your ob-gyn specializes in infertility, works closely with a urologist specializing in infertility, and has established that your diagnosis is straightforward and treatment is not complex, you run the risk of spending money on incomplete or inappropriate diagnostic tests and treatment that may deplete your finances before you are even referred to a fertility specialist (who may require that both of you repeat the very same tests!).”
Constance Hoenk Shapiro, MSW, PhD, is the author of When You’re Not Expecting: An Infertility Survival Guide. In the book, she describes nine signs it’s time to see a fertility specialist. I’ve listed five signs below.
If you can’t get pregnant and are wondering about fertility treatments, you need to read When You’re Not Expecting. It offers emotional and medical support, and includes chapters about recovering from pregnancy loss and knowing when to stop getting fertility treatments.
And here’s how to know if you should start thinking about infertility treatments…
How to Know You Need to Find a Fertility Doctor
Most of the questions I get are from women who say it’s taking too long to get pregnant - whether that means six months or six years. They often forget – or maybe they don’t know – that male infertility contributes to problems getting pregnant just as often as female infertility does.
It’s not just women who need to go to a fertility doctor…it’s their partners, too.
Here are a few signs it’s time for both men and women to find a fertility doctor…
You’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year without success
This is the most common, most obvious sign you need to find a fertility specialist: you’re under age 35 and have been trying to conceive for 12 months. Or, you’re over age 35 and you’ve been trying to conceive for more than 6 months.
A woman’s chances of getting pregnant decrease as she ages — no matter how healthy, fit, and active she is! And, male sperm health decreases as he ages, too. Don’t put off finding a fertility doctor, because time can cost you a baby.
You or your partner has chronic or past health problems
“Diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of cancer are examples of conditions that can affect sperm production and ovarian function,” writes Shapiro in When You’re Not Expecting. Remember that male health and fertility issues are just as important to getting pregnant as female health and fertility issues! If you can’t get pregnant, it’s time for both of you to see a fertility specialist.
You’ve been seeing a family doctor for six months
If you haven’t been able to get pregnant for six months to a year and you’ve been seeing a family doctor, and that doctor hasn’t done an infertility evaluation or fertility tests, then you need to see a fertility specialist.
Some women feel guilty for getting a second opinion or going to a fertility doctor; they say it’s like a betrayal to their family doctor. If you feel that way, remember that doctors don’t take your health decisions personally! They know that you’re doing all you can to get pregnant and start your family – and they will not feel betrayed or hurt if you get a second opinion or ask for a referral to a fertility doctor.
You have problems with your periods and ovulation
According to Shapiro, if you have pelvic pain, heavy periods, and/or bowel or bladder symptoms around your menstrual cycle and the physician does not suggest having a hysterosalpingogram or laparoscopy to determine the cause, then you should see an infertility doctor.
If your menstrual cycle is irregular, read When You Can’t Predict Your Periods and Want to Get Pregnant.
You want a formal, complete fertility workup from a fertility specialist
“[You should go to a fertility doctor] if you want to have your diagnostic workup and treatment performed as efficiently as possible with staff who view ‘the couple’ as the patient, and are available 365 days a year.” Going to a fertility clinic may help you feel more in control of your journey towards getting pregnant – especially if you know what to look for when finding a fertility doctor.
In When You’re Not Expecting: An Infertility Survival Guide, Shapiro gives readers the best words to say if they’re worried about telling their doctors they want to find a fertility specialist:
“Dr Smith, I have asked to meet with you to thank you for your efforts to treat my infertility and to tell you that Jim and I have decided to seek treatment at the Jackson Infertility Clinic. You have been wonderful in your care and concern for me, but we both know I am getting older. I still am not pregnant, and I want very much to look back on this painful period in my life knowing that I have done everything in my power to seek comprehensive treatment. You have been an important person for me in this process, and I hope I have your support as I move forward. If I do get pregnant, I can’t think of anyone I would want to deliver our baby more than you!”
Even if you have to print that paragraph out and read it word for word, it’s a great, thoughtful way to transition from your family doctor to a fertility doctor.
What do you think – do you need to find a fertility doctor?