When to see a fertility doctor?

1 in 6 couples nowadays experience some form of infertility. It is more common than you think, but thank god for science and its advances. There are plenty of fertility treatments covering both female and male fertility issues, and Greece takes pride in having some top-notch clinics, highly-skilled doctors, low prices and good legislation for all. But let’s take a step back. How do you know it is actually time to see a fertility doctor? After how many months and how many tries? A fertility specialist or an ob/gyn? Many questions that cause extra stress, but thankfully they can all be answered! 

The general guidelines state that if you are under 35 years old and you have been actively trying to conceive for more than 12 months then it’s time to visit a fertility specialist. If you are over 35 the time window decreases to 6 months, and that’s because the fertility levels are dropping as we get older. Aging affects egg quantity as well as egg quality, and that decline makes the chance of miscarriage higher in older women.

Difference between ob/gyn and fertility specialist: A fertility doctor can diagnose both female and male fertility issues and proceed to fertility treatments if needed while the OB/GYNs focus on the general reproductive health. So, at the beginning of your fertility journey it is nice to have an ob/gyn explain the basics, but if you struggle with fertility issues a visit to a fertility doctor is mandatory. 

There are some warning signs and conditions that if present you should definitely consult a doctor to plan your next steps. 

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility and is a hormonal disorder that impacts the ability of a woman to ovulate regularly. If a woman is not ovulating regularly, it can be challenging to conceive. Typically, PCOS is treated with oral or injectable medications that induce ovulation.
  • Endometriosis: It occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows elsewhere, such as in the ovaries, fallopian tube and other pelvic spaces. Treatment is individualized for each woman, but may include surgery.
  • Uterine fibroids: Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus and are a common finding in reproductive aged women. Although they may interfere with the ability of a woman to get pregnant or may lead to pregnancy loss, many women with fibroids are able to conceive and carry a pregnancy without difficulty. Treatment options for women who have fibroids and desire pregnancy vary.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI): When a woman is under age 40 and her ovaries stop functioning normally, she is diagnosed with POI. The chance that a woman diagnosed with POI conceives is overall about five percent. Given the low likelihood of natural conception, egg donation can be one of the most effective treatments for women with POI.
  • Thyroid conditions: One of the most common thyroid conditions is an under-active thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause irregular menstrual cycles and impact ovulation. If you have a known thyroid issue, it’s important to monitor your thyroid hormone levels prior to getting pregnant. A fertility specialist can help increase your chances of getting pregnant, and work with you to monitor your thyroid hormone to promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of miscarriage.
  • Any type of cancer: If you have undergone cancer treatment, a usual negative impact can be a difficulty in conceiving, depending on age, treatment and dosage. The fertility specialist should examine you in order to see if the situation is irreversible. 
  • Other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, hypertension etc. make it essential for you to consult with a specialist. 

There are also other life conditions in a woman’s or man’s life that can affect fertility levels and should be considered in advance. 

Miscarriages: Miscarriage happens when the pregnancy ends within the first 20 weeks. Most common reason is because the egg or sperm had the wrong number of chromosomes so the fertilized egg can’t develop normally. Miscarriage can also be caused by early development problems: the egg doesn’t implant properly in the uterus or has structural defects. If you have had two or more miscarriages, you should consider working with a specialist to monitor your health while you are trying to conceive. If there is a larger condition causing these miscarriages, you should be aware of it. 

Irregular periods: There are cases of heavy bleeding or no bleeding at all which indicate different fertility issues and treatment. 

  • No period: It’s possible that you are not ovulating.
  • Irregular periods: Brain could be sending the wrong hormone signals, or this could be caused by an ovulation disorder.
  • Bleeding between periods: Bleeding between periods or after sex could be caused by a uterine polyp or fibroid, or a cervical lesion.
  • Very heavy periods: If you bleed for more than seven days, go through more than one pad or tampon an hour for several hours, or pass blood clots larger than the size of a quarter, your period is unusually heavy. This can be caused by a uterine fibroid or an endocrine abnormality. It is highly recommended for you to see a doctor.

Male erection problems: There are doctors specialized in male fertility issues, such as andrologists and urologists, that can determine the severity of each problem and suggest the most suitable treatment. We have to remind our male readers that infertility in men is common and not something they should feel guilty of. Common and treatable in most cases! 

Generally there is no need to panic or put extra pressure on yourself when trying to conceive. Especially since stress and negative emotions can impact mental health which later affects the body and the fertility levels. If you are trying for months and feel there is a possibility of having fertility issues, contact your doctor and seek help. And if you have decided on proceeding with a fertility treatment, contact us and we can guide you through every step of the journey. With a network of highly successful doctors and clinics we provide a safe and smooth fertility journey. We are here to support you no matter the outcome, always according to your wants and needs.

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When to see a fertility doctor?