On the Healthful Woman podcast, Dr. Nathan Fox and Dr. Susan Lobel discuss the nuances of fertility treatments and the variations in treatment for different patients. Although there is no “right” time to visit a fertility specialist but there are a few guidelines you can follow to help you determine whether it’s the right time to call your gynecologist and schedule a consultation.
Fertility treatments help women who have unexplained infertility conceive successfully. There are many different tests and treatments that can be performed which makes it difficult to know when to start treatment and which treatments to receive. Dr. Fox summarizes this well in the podcast “Fertility Treatments: Who Needs What?” by stating, “People want everything done that’s supposed to be done but they don’t want things done that aren’t necessary or might be sort of over the top if there’s potential harm or cost or something like that. But it’s very hard for people to know.”
One of the first steps that can be done, especially for women around the age of 35, is an ovarian reserve evaluation which counts how many eggs a woman has. A higher egg count means there is a higher chance of getting pregnant. Similarly, a test can be conducted to check sperm count for men. Another test that can be done is a radiology test that looks at the contour of the uterus and checks for polyps or fibroids that could be preventing contraception.
For women under the age of 35, the standard recommendation for fertility treatments is to start with intrauterine insemination or pills for ovulation induction since these are less aggressive methods. In the podcast, Dr. Lobel states, “you can learn things in doing less aggressive treatment that can help you be more successful with IVF.” 3-4 cycles of ovulation induction over the course of 3-4 months are usually recommended before trying IVF (in vitro fertilization). However, this treatment process may be sped up for older women or those with underlying factors. Some doctors may even recommend starting with IVF first in some cases; this depends on the patient’s age, how long they have been trying, and other factors.
It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion to ensure you are receiving the best treatment plan possible. Consider visiting two different doctors and/or check out reliable sources like the American Society for Reproductive Medicine or the American College of OB-GYN for standard guidelines that can give you a better idea about the treatments you should be looking for.
Anyone who is concerned about their ability to get pregnant should feel comfortable speaking with their gynecologist about fertility treatments. In the podcast, Dr. Lobel states, “I think it’s important for couples to think about what’s right for them time-wise.” In other words, each couple’s pregnancy journey is different.
One thing that may ease your worries is that it is normal for woman under the age of 35 to take a year to conceive naturally before visiting a specialist. However, if you have an underlying medical condition that makes it harder to conceive, no matter your age, you should visit a specialist even sooner. One of these conditions is irregular periods or periods that are more than 35 days apart. If your male partner has a low sperm count, that is also a great reason to visit a specialist sooner.
Women over the age of 35 who have been trying for 6 months or longer should see a specialist since there is a decline in fertility after this age. If you aren’t sure where to look, you can first visit with your gynecologist who will recommend you to a reproductive endocrinologist or fertility specialists.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!