If you have been trying to conceive a baby without success, you may need to visit a fertility doctor. If you plan on getting pregnant after 35, you can seek the help of a fertility doctor if you have been unsuccessfully trying for a baby for six months.
For women under 35, fertility doctors recommend that you keep trying for 12 months before visiting them. A fertility doctor will examine you and your partner and look for physical reasons why you are not conceiving.
Your doctor may suggest treatment options to help you conceive naturally, including supplements like pre-conception vitamins and fertility testing. You may also need to undergo more invasive treatments like laparoscopy or a testicular biopsy for your partner. Learn how you can be best prepared for your first appointment with a fertility doctor.
Know if You Are Ovulating
To get pregnant, you need to be ovulating. Ovulation is when your body releases an egg for fertilization and is the only time when you can get pregnant. On average, women have six days per month when they are fertile and ovulating. Typically women ovulate two weeks before their period, but it depends on the average length of your cycle.
If you are unsure if or when your body is ovulating, you can find out by taking your temperature every day. Basal body temperature charting allows you to track and see changes in your core body temperature. Your temperature dips slightly the day before you ovulate, then rises for several days after the egg is released, indicating ovulation has occurred.
You’ll be able to track your ovulation schedule by taking your temperature every day. Tracking your ovulation can help you get pregnant, as you will know the optimal time for you to try to conceive. The information is also helpful to your fertility doctor, who will need to plan treatments around your ovulation schedule.
Understand Fertility Testing with Fertility Doctor
At your first appointment, your fertility doctor will go over the medical history of you and your partner and may want to conduct fertility testing on both of you. These tests help your doctor diagnose any problems preventing pregnancy.
Women may need to visit a gynecologist for basic testing, and men may need to visit a urologist. Your fertility doctor may also refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist to test your endocrine systems in case there is an underlying hormonal problem preventing conception. Fertility tests for women include:
- Blood work that checks hormone levels during different parts of your cycle.
- Ultrasounds of your ovaries to check for cysts and fibroids, see if you have polycystic ovaries, and make sure you are ovulating.
- Ultrasounds of your uterus to check its shape and the thickness of your uterine lining.
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to check your fallopian tubes for scarring or damage.
Male fertility testing is centered around semen analysis. The man provides a semen sample for evaluation. Typically they need to provide several samples on separate days for the most accurate analysis.
This test checks the overall sperm count and the motility and shape of the sperm. Sperm quality and volume affect your ability to conceive. Your doctor may suggest a round of genetic testing to determine if a genetic defect is a cause.
What It Means if You Are Infertile
Many couples suffer from infertility. Getting a diagnosis does not mean you cannot have children. It just means you will have to undergo treatment to conceive a child. Once your doctor understands your problem and gives you a diagnosis, they will create a treatment plan for you.
Treatments may be simple lifestyle changes like supporting your ovary and egg health with DHEA supplements. Or you may need medications or surgical procedures to treat an underlying health condition preventing you from getting pregnant. Fertility doctors may also suggest treatments like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to help you become pregnant.
Understand the Side Effects of Treatment
Fertility drugs are used throughout treatments to help you become pregnant. Some medications are used to stimulate your ovaries to produce eggs, while others help you gain control over your fertility cycle. They are also used to treat underlying conditions impacting your fertility.
Fertility drugs may be used alone as a treatment, but are also needed for IUI and IVF procedures. Women are the ones who will be taking fertility drugs, as problems with male fertility are not treated with these medications. Common fertility drugs include:
- Clomiphene citrate (Clomid)
- Letrozole (Femara)
- Ovarian Suppressors used in IVF
Mood swings, hot flashes, cramping, nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches are common side effects of fertility drugs and range from mild to severe depending on the medication. Some fertility drugs also increase the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome when your ovaries become enlarged and filled with fluid.
You should also be aware of the increased chance of conceiving twins and sets of multiples from undergoing fertility treatments, especially IUI. Your risk of pregnancy-related complications goes up when you are carrying more than one baby. Discuss the chances with your doctor and see which fertility drugs work best with your family’s needs.
Know the Challenges of Fertility Treatments
Fertility treatments can be emotionally and financially stressful on your family. You may not feel like yourself for months at a time, and you may worry if you can afford the cost of fertility treatments.
Fertility treatments often require daily shots and pills, with frequent trips to your doctor’s office. The busy schedule can take its toll on you and your partner and cause emotional stress on top of the physical side effects you may be experiencing.
One round of IVF can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and your health insurance may not cover the cost. You may have to take money out of your retirement savings or consider taking out a loan to help finance your treatment. Make sure you understand how your fertility doctor’s office charges for their care, so you are not surprised by unexpected bills.
Know What Your Options Are
Learn what to expect ahead of time and research your fertility options to help you find a treatment plan that works for your family. You may be able to make simple lifestyle changes such as eating a more nutritional diet, exercising more, or taking fertility supplements to increase your chances of conceiving. A fertility doctor will work with you to find the right solution.