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Fertility Specialist or Ob/Gyn: Which Is Right for You?

Physician discussing with patient

When you’re struggling with fertility issues, you might experience a bunch of different emotions, all at the same time:

  • Frustration that your efforts to get pregnant seem to be taking you on a fast train to nowhere;
  • Envy that your friends are decorating their nurseries, but you’re still waiting to see a plus sign on a home pregnancy test yet;
  • Maybe even embarrassment because you’ve finally come to a tough conclusion: It’s time to seek more specialized help.

But there’s one feeling you may need more of: Hope. And seeking medical help for fertility issues can provide you with a sense of hope.

At first, you may not know where to turn for treatment. Do you see your OB/GYN or would you be better off going to a fertility specialist? What’s the difference between them anyway?

Factors to Consider

Below are a few factors to consider, when deciding between a fertility specialist and an OB/GYN.

How Long You’ve Been Trying to Get Pregnant

A visit to an OB/GYN is generally the first stop in the fertility treatment journey.

Your gynecologist can perform a preliminary fertility evaluation, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. A common problem for couples with fertility struggles is how to properly time intercourse with ovulation, says the National Infertility Association.

While an over-the-counter urine test—known as an ovulation predictor test—can sometimes do the trick, your OB/GYN can conduct an evaluation to see if there are other factors affecting your ability to get pregnant, the Association explains.

You should consider having a fertility evaluation if you:

  • Are under 35 years old and have been trying for at least one year
  • Are older than 35 years and have been trying for six months

If the evaluation points to an underlying fertility issue—such as pelvic inflammatory disease or uterine fibroids—it may be time to consider seeing a fertility specialist.

Your OB/GYN’s Training

Some obstetrician-gynecologists undergo extra training to better treat patients who are struggling with fertility difficulties.

If your doctor is board certified in reproductive endocrinology, then she’s had this extra training.

If she hasn’t, she may only be familiar with a few of the more common fertility treatments.

If that is the case, you might want to consider seeing a fertility specialist instead. This is especially true if other treatment methods have been unsuccessful for you.

A fertility specialist has completed three years of specialized training with an approved reproductive endocrinology fellowship program in addition to an OB/GYN residency.

Your Medical History

If you have irregular or painful menstrual cycles, or you have a hard time tracking your ovulation, you may want to consider seeing a fertility specialist instead of an OB/GYN.

Other reasons to see a fertility specialist:

  • You’ve had more than one miscarriage
  • You or your partner had or have an STD
  • You or your partner are overweight or underweight

Your Age

Women over 30 years old, who have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease or problems related to their menstrual cycles, should see a fertility specialist sooner than the recommended one year, according to the Association.

Your Partner’s Fertility

Another reason see a specialist, sooner rather than later, is if your partner has a low sperm count, according to the Association. If your partner’s semen analysis comes back abnormal, he might be referred to a urologist who has been trained to handle issues concerning male infertility, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine explains.

Have you or someone you know seen a fertility specialist? Was it more helpful than going to an OB/GYN?

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