When to See a Fertility Doctor

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Getting pregnant isn’t always easy. How long should you try to get pregnant before talking to your healthcare provider? When is it time to see a fertility specialist?

It's easy to become impatient if you don’t get pregnant right away, but it's also important that you don't delay asking for help if you think you might have a fertility problem. Here are some signs that it might be time to talk with your provider.

Recommended Time to Try Getting Pregnant

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), if a couple has not achieved pregnancy after one year of having unprotected sex, they should seek professional help getting pregnant.

However, if the woman is over the age of 35, a couple should not wait a full year. In this case, couples should talk to their provider if they don't conceive after six months of trying.

Who Seeks Help, Who Doesn't, and Why?

Researchers in Britain surveyed 15,162 men and women between the ages of 16 and 74, asking them if they had ever experienced infertility, and if so, had they ever sought medical help for the issue.

Unlike in the United States, fertility treatments are covered by Britain's national insurance. With increased access, the researchers expected that people would more readily seek help if they were having trouble conceiving.

However, the study's results were surprising: only 57.3% of women and 53.2% of men reported ever seeking medical help for their fertility struggles.

The youngest women and men in the group (ages 17 to 24) reported seeking help only a third of the time (32.6% of the women and 14.1% of the men)

Why the couples hadn’t sought help is anybody’s guess. One possibility is that they didn’t know they could—or that, in fact, they should. The study found that people with more education, those in higher socioeconomic classes, and those who had their first child later in life were more likely to seek help if they were struggling to get pregnant.

Younger people might not seek help simply because they don't think that infertility applies to them. While it's true that the risk of infertility increases with age, young men and women can be infertile.

Another possibility is that people aren’t interested in pursuing fertility treatments. If you’re young, waiting to start fertility treatments until you’re ready isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, even if you’re not ready to seek treatment, seeing your provider and having some basic fertility testing is recommended.

Infertility can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition—some of which will get worse over time. The longer you wait to seek help, the less likely it is that fertility treatment will be successful.

Whether or not you plan on having fertility treatments, it's still a good idea to talk to your provider about having an evaluation. If there is a medical condition causing your fertility struggles, it needs to be treated even if you change your mind about getting pregnant.

Reasons to Seek Fertility Help Sooner

You don't necessarily need to wait six months to a year before asking for help conceiving. In some cases, you should actually ask for help much sooner.

Talk to your provider about having a fertility evaluation as soon as possible if:

  • You have a family history of early menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency (also known as premature ovarian failure)
  • You have a family history of BRCA+ breast cancer or another reproductive cancer
  • You have a genetic condition that is known to affect fertility
  • You have irregular periods, endometriosis, or PCOS
  • You have two miscarriages in a row
  • You or your partner has a history of sexually transmitted infections
  • You or your partner have any risk factors or symptoms of infertility

Miscarriage is common, but repeated miscarriage is not. Having two or more pregnancy losses in a row may indicate trouble with staying pregnant (even if you're able to get pregnant easily).

Charting Your Cycles

If you're having trouble getting pregnant but don't have symptoms of infertility that should be assessed by your provider, you might want to try body basal temperature charting.

Charting your cycles might help you determine that not ovulating regularly, or that your luteal phase isn’t long enough to sustain a pregnancy. You'll also be able to show your provider that despite having had sex at the right time of the month for six months, you are still not pregnant.

If you discover that either of these issues, don't wait to talk to your provider. Some providers will consider testing for fertility problems sooner if you've been charting your body basal temperature for six months (even if there is no clear problem).

If You're 40 or Older

If you're 39 or 40 years old and just starting to try to get pregnant, it's worth seeing your provider sooner rather than later. They might check your FSH or AMH levels or do basic fertility testing. They might also have you try for a while and come back within a specific timeframe if you are not successful in conceiving.

Which Provider to See

Unless you have a history of infertility and an established relationship with a fertility doctor, the first person you should see is your gynecologist. If you have a male partner, they should see a urologist to have their fertility tested.

Your gynecologist or fertility doctor will run basic fertility tests, then recommend a treatment plan. If your gynecologist thinks it's necessary, they might refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist for additional testing or treatment.

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Article Sources
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