7 Things to Know Before Your First Appointment With a Fertility Doctor

You've been trying to have a baby for some time with no success. Should you see a fertility doctor? If you're under 35 and have been actively trying to conceive for 12 months or more without success, make an appointment with a fertility doctor, or reproductive endocrinologist (sometimes referred to as an RE). If you're over 35, wait only six months before getting help.

Either way, expect to go through an array of evaluations and tests to determine what may be interfering with your efforts to get pregnant. Here's an overview of things it will be useful to know before you see a fertility doctor. 

Are You Ovulating?

Female doctor discussing with patient in clinic
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One of the initial things the doctor will want to know is whether or not you're ovulating (releasing an egg every month). This is something you may be able to figure out on your own before your appointment by charting your basal body temperature (BBT) for several months.

Tracking ovulation can be a very inexpensive way of helping you get pregnant, so it's worth the effort.

Fertility Testing

At your first meeting with the fertility specialist, they will go over your medical history and then outline the fertility tests you and your partner will need to have.

These will include blood work and physical examinations for both partners, semen analysis for men, and an ultrasound and a specialized X-ray to look at the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes for women. 

Semen Analysis

For men, the basic test for infertility is a semen analysis (SA), in which a sample taken after ejaculation is evaluated in a lab. A semen analysis looks at a variety of aspects of male fertility, including sperm count, semen volume, the shape and movement of sperm cells, the presence of white blood cells, and other factors.

Providing a sperm sample can be anxiety-provoking, but it's truly a straightforward process.

Fertility Treatment Basics

After all the testing has been completed and you have a diagnosis—a reason you and your partner are having trouble conceiving—your infertility doctor can put together a treatment plan.

Even if the results of your tests have been inconclusive, and there's no clear reason you aren't getting pregnant—up to a third of couples never find out why they can't conceive—treatment is still very much available.

In either case, expect to have options ranging from lifestyle modifications to fertility medications to surgical interventions or even intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Side Effects of Fertility Drugs

Medication to stimulate ovulation is integral to most infertility treatments. In some cases, drugs alone are used (at least at first). Fertility drugs also are part of more involved treatments such as IVF. These drugs do carry certain risks, which your infertility doctor will go over with you.

So you're prepared, know that they include the possibility that if you conceive there will be more than one embryo which can lead to complications with the pregnancy. Another side effect associated with fertility drugs is a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). 

Fertility Treatment Costs

Fertility treatment is expensive. In fact, according to one study, the median per-person costs ranged from more than $24,000 to roughly $38,000 for IVF and IVF-donor eggs groups.

However, there are ways to get help with financing fertility treatments including payment plans and even scholarships.

A good source for guidance and options is the RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. 

Beyond Fertility Treatment

Fertility drugs can have unpleasant side effects. What's more, the vigilance required when taking them, the frequent (sometimes daily) trips to the infertility doctor's office or clinic for blood work and ultrasounds, and the shared disappointment if a treatment doesn't work are just some of the factors that can take a toll on a couple undergoing fertility treatment.

It's vital that both partners talk about what they're feeling.

If you find this hard to do, consider seeing an infertility counselor who is specially trained to guide couples undergoing fertility treatments through the emotional minefields of the fertility treatment. 

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