Couples who are having trouble with conception often go on to seek the help of a fertility specialist. What can these doctors do for you, and how can you find one? Here are some common questions -- and answers.
Couples seek specialized fertility treatment for many reasons, but there are some general factors that they (and their doctors) typically weigh:
Men with fertility problems are best served by either a urologist or an andrologist. Urologists are trained in the evaluation and treatment of disorders of the kidneys, urinary tract, bladder, and male reproductive organs, and have at least two years of general surgical training. A urologist will usually perform a semen analysis, look for varicoceles (varicose veins in the scrotum), check hormone levels, and order lab tests to check on the quality of sperm. An andrologist is either a medical doctor or laboratory specialist who may have earned a PhD in biochemistry, endocrinology, or physiology. These doctors focus on the physiologic, hormonal conditions that affect male infertility.
If a woman has fertility issues that can't be addressed by her primary physician, she can see a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) -- a doctor specializing in the treatment of hormonal disorders that affect reproduction. REs have completed at least two years of training beyond their ob-gyn residency and have passed oral and written exams.
Depending on the nature of her problem, a woman might also need to see a reproductive surgeon. These ob-gyns are trained to treat anatomical problems, such as tubal obstruction, endometriosis, and uterine abnormalities, as well as other reproductive-organ disorders that require surgery.
Before locating a fertility specialist who can address your particular needs, you may need to do some groundwork. Here are a few ways to get started:
Contact the American Medical Association or the American Board of Medical Specialties to learn more about your potential doctor's credentials.
During your first visit (which both partners should attend), you'll want to get a sense of how the practice is run, what services the doctor provides, the hours of operation, and the fee structure or payment plan. Here are some general questions to ask:
Sources: The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary S. Berger, MD, Marc Goldstein, MD, and Mark Fuerst (Broadway Books); The Fertility Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal (Lowell House); RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
Originally published in July, 2002.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.