When Should I Meet with a Fertility Doctor?
By Rita Sneeringer, MD
By reading this post, you’re already taking a real and important first step towards your fertility goals. Educating yourself about your fertility and when to be proactive will only empower you to make the best choices for yourself as you work towards growing your family.
If you’ve been off birth control for a few months while trying to conceive, and you’re becoming concerned about the possibility of infertility, keep in mind that it often takes a couple 5-7 months to become pregnant. There may not be a need for concern. However, if more time passes and you haven’t conceived, it’s important to know when to reach out to a specialist. An initial consultation with a fertility specialist is a conversation — no testing takes place — where you will find support to make informed decisions about how best to achieve your fertility goals.
As a fertility specialist, my hope is for all couples to know that the sooner you identify when to visit with a specialist, the faster we can help you. In the realm of fertility, timing is very important, and “the sooner the better” is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind as you plan.
You are Not Alone
As you navigate the logistics of timing, it’s equally important to notice your own emotions. Whatever you’re feeling, keep in mind that it’s normal to be frustrated, stressed, sad, or mad when you haven’t been able to get pregnant as soon as you’d hoped.
Through any challenges you may be facing, maintain perspective by remembering that you are not alone. The community of men and women who have lived the highs and lows of infertility is large and strong, made up of one out of every eight couples in the United States. One common thread you’ll notice among almost every resource or piece of advice from a couple that has experienced infertility is that addressing your fertility concerns as soon as possible will dramatically increase your chances of achieving your fertility goals.
In other words, the sooner you identify when to visit with a specialist, the faster we can help identify your unique situation.
Timing is Everything
Because of the important role of female age in determining the quantity and quality of eggs, women under the age of 35 who have not conceived after 12 months of unprotected sex should see a fertility specialist. If you’re over the age of 35, we recommend seeing a specialist after 6 months of unprotected sex if conception has not occurred. Women over age 40 are welcome to reach out to a fertility specialist even sooner.
Women who have noticed irregularities or challenges within their menstrual cycle, including periods that last longer than one week, cycles that last more than 38 days or vary by more than two weeks, spotting between periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during menstruation, or an absence of period, are also encouraged to meet with a fertility specialist. Irregularities in a cycle sometimes signal other issues linked with infertility, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Who Should Meet with a Doctor?
- women who’ve experienced a miscarriage
women with PCOS or women with hair loss or excessive facial/body hair
women with thyroid issues
women with endometriosis
women with a family history of early menopause
women about to undergo treatment for cancer
men with erectile dysfunction
men about to undergo treatment for cancer
men with undescended testes at birth
men with a varicocele in the testes
men with low semen motility (movement)
men with low sperm counts
men with poor semen morphology (shape)
Tips for Connecting with a Doctor
If you’re able to check off any boxes for medical conditions, age guidelines, or cycle irregularities that meet our guidelines for patients who are recommended to meet with a fertility specialist, your next step is to connect with a fertility clinic near you. You might find your clinic by searching patient reviews online, exploring clinic websites, or a friend or family referral. However you search, it’s important that you feel comfortable with your fertility specialist and clinic. If that’s not the case after your initial consultation, it’s always an option to seek out a second opinion.
Once you’ve made an appointment, your first meeting with a fertility doctor will entail sitting down with your doctor to discuss your family and medical history, your fertility goals, and your options moving forward. You will meet with your entire fertility team, who will support you through your journey. As fertility specialists, we encourage you to ask questions. No question is too silly or too small — we want you to be well-informed and comfortable with your decisions.
Your Next Steps
Each fertility story is unique, including yours.
Whether you are facing infertility or not, the place between certainty and uncertainty about your fertility is an emotionally difficult one, made more difficult by the importance of time in relation to your chance at success. A meeting with a fertility specialist is a conversation that can bring you peace of mind and the support you need to move forward on your journey. To learn more about fertility and take your next step, head over to www.bostonivf.com to learn more.
ABOUT RITA SNEERINGER, MD
Dr. Rita Sneeringer is a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF, one of the most experienced fertility centers in the nation. She is double board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology/Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Dr. Sneeringer specializes in all aspects of infertility care. In addition to her role at Boston IVF, she is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School.