Health 101: Infertility in Women

Do I need a fertility specialist?

If you're worried about how long it's taking to get pregnant, your first stop may be your ob-gyn or family doctor. He or she can perform basic tests to determine whether you're ovulating normally or may be experiencing problems with your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or uterus. While your regular doctor may be able to prescribe drugs that jump-start ovulation or perform outpatient procedures to treat fibroids or endometriosis, for example, you'll need to see a specialist for more complex procedures like IVF.

A fertility specialist -- officially called a reproductive endocrinologist or RE -- is an ob-gyn who has had an extra three years of training (on top of four years of regular ob-gyn education). After completing these seven years of training, doctors take a series of written and oral tests to become board certified in reproductive endocrinology.

Women 35 or older, or who know they have health conditions that may affect fertility, may choose to bypass their own doctors and head straight to an RE. You usually don't need a referral to visit a reproductive endocrinologist.

How do I find a fertility specialist?

Start by asking your current ob-gyn or family physician, friends, or family members for a referral. Organizations like the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine have great Web sites with listings of specialists.


During your first phone call or visit, ask the doctor or office staff about costs, insurance coverage, and payment plans; the types of tests he or she will use; office hours, availability to patients, and willingness to talk with you at length about your situation. Infertility testing and treatment require a big commitment from you and your doctor, and you'll want to make sure you've chosen someone you're comfortable with and trust with important emotional and financial decisions.

A word of caution: Be careful not to choose a specialist based on statistics alone. Of course high success rates are important, but some clinics may have higher ratings than others because they're more selective about the patients they take on. And obviously, larger clinics with more doctors and patients will result in more babies than smaller practices will produce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a national report on fertility clinic success rates, which you may want to check out as part of your research.


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