Most specialists recommend that couples with no known reproductive health problems put a 12-month time limit on attempting to achieve pregnancy before seeking medical help, if pregnancy doesn't occur. Consultation with a specialist is recommended when first considering pregnancy (or if pregnancy isn't achieved after several cycles) for women age 35 or older, and for women who have menstrual or ovulatory irregularities, known tubal problems, a history of miscarriages or thyroid conditions.
Men with known sperm deficiencies or a history of infections should also consult a specialist.
After being diagnosed as infertile, a couple may want to use these strategies when beginning treatment:
- Consult a specialist early on.
- Educate yourself as much as possible about all aspects of infertility.
- Be assertive and ask questions.
- Know your options for treatment and what is financially and emotionally possible for you as a couple.
Fertility specialists are sub-specialists in the field of obstetrics and gynecology known as reproductive endocrinology. There are only about 600 board-certified reproductive endocrinologists in the U.S., compared to nearly 28,000 obstetrician/gynecologists.
Urologists with a sub-specialty in andrology are specialists who diagnose and treat male infertility.
Some ob/gyns may have gained significant on-the-job experience in treating infertility, combined with specialized coursework to enhance their knowledge. There are many fertility tests and treatments a competent ob/gyn can perform.
Fertility specialists are highly knowledgeable about all aspects of reproduction and treatment options. In addition, their office staff, hours and equipment are available exclusively to support infertility treatment.
Finding physicians who are board-certified in reproductive endocrinology - which means they completed extensive training and passed both oral and written examinations in the subspecialty - is one way to ensure that a health care professional is truly a specialist.