Visits to fertility specialists have been covered humorously by "Sex and the City," "Will & Grace" and almost every sitcom in between. But in reality, such an event is far from funny. And while being prepared doesn't make the situation any less serious, it can make it less daunting.
If you suspect you may be infertile, you can schedule an initial visit with your gynecologist. However, because your partner will also need to be evaluated, it's best to find a clinic that specializes in reproductive medicine. During your first visit, be prepared to give the doctor details on your conception attempts (such as how long you have been trying to get pregnant, and which times during your cycle you have intercourse). He or she will also ask detailed questions about the medical histories of both you and your partner.
Fertility tests for men are usually limited to a physical exam, semen analysis, hormone testing or a transrectal and scrotal ultrasound [source: Mayo Clinic]. For women, tests are sometimes more comprehensive and invasive, and can include [source: Mayo Clinic]:
- Ovulation testing, to ensure ovulation is occurring
- Ovarian reserve testing, to assess the effectiveness of the eggs
- Hormone testing, to check ovulatory, thyroid and pituitary hormone levels
- Hysterosalpingography, to evaluate the uterus and fallopian tubes
- Laparoscopy, to examine all of the major reproductive organs
- Pelvic ultrasound, to investigate uterine or fallopian tube disease
- Genetic testing, to see if there's a genetic defect causing the infertility
Depending on the results of your tests, treatment can include anything from lifestyle or sexual changes to fertility drugs to assisted reproductive technology. Fertility treatments run the gamut of effort, cost and risk, so you should also be prepared to spend a good amount of time consulting with your physician and your partner on next steps.
For lots more information on fertility and reproduction, see the next page.