If you are on the hunt for an infertility specialist, it is common to get a bit overwhelmed comparing all of the options available to you in your area. 1 in 6 couples seeks out help from a specialist to help them conceive. Because of this, there are many people out there who can give you advice on how to find the one that is right for you.
Also, in most cases, the specialist you go with will understand the gravity of your decision to come to them and treat your case with special care. It may happen that you will not necessarily click with an infertility specialist for one reason or the other, but there are a handful of things that you can be sure to find in any doctor working in this area.
Just to give you a good sense of what you should always find in an infertility specialist, we have listed 4 things that all infertility specialists want below.
#1. To Find What Is Causing Your Infertility
In order to determine how best to treat you, the specialist must find the reason that you are unable to conceive. It is impossible to find a solution to something when you do not know what the problem is, so this is the first thing that your doctor will want to uncover.
Before taking you and your partner through a series of tests they will ask questions about your sexual habits, diet, physical activity, and any substances you might use. The tests required to find the cause will be different for the male and female.
For The Male
In order to test a man’s fertility, the doctor will do tests to ensure that his testicles can produce a good amount of healthy sperm that can be ejaculated into the woman’s vagina and then travel on to the egg.
The examinations that can determine such things include:
- analyzing the semen
- testing the hormones
- genetic testing
- biopsy of the testicles
- imaging (brain MRI, scanning of bone mineral density, ultrasound of the scrotum, or testing of the vas deferens)
For The Female
A woman’s fertility relies on her ability to release healthy eggs from her ovaries. Once the egg is released it must be able to pass on through her fallopian tubes so that it can meet up with the sperm and complete fertilization. After that, the fertilized egg needs to make it to the uterus and implant safely in the lining. Because of this, there are many things that will need to be tested to determine where the infertility exists. After a general physical and gynecological exam, other tests may include:
- testing the blood in order to determine hormone levels during ovulation
- using hysterosalpingography to determine the health of the uterus and fallopian tubes
- testing the ovaries for the quantity and quality of eggs within
- testing the levels of ovulatory and pituitary hormones
- imaging (pelvic ultrasound and sometimes hysterosonography)
- in some rare cases she may also require a laparoscopy (a surgery which requires inserting a small camera through an incision beneath the navel to examine reproductive organs) or genetic testing to determine if you have inherited something genetic that is causing the infertility.
Each person’s situation is different, and not everyone will need to undergo all of these tests. Yet, it is an infertility specialist’ top priority to uncover what is hindering your ability to conceive, so they will recommend all of the necessary steps to accomplish this.
#2. To Help You Find A Treatment That Will Work
Once your doctor has determined your state of health and what is causing you and your partner difficulty, they will recommend what they believe to be the best treatment plan for you. Just like before, depending on if the infertility is in the male or the female, the treatment process will be different.
It may happen that the doctor is unable to find a cause, or they may tell you that the infertility is something that cannot be corrected. Even then, they will explain to you the reasons for this in detail and then what options still do exist for you when it comes to building a family. For the man, treatment options may include:
- making changes in their lifestyle (no longer taking certain medications, discontinuing use of harmful substances, being more aware of the woman’s ovulation timing, exercising regularly, etc.)
- taking certain medications that may improve his sperm count and testicular function
- surgery that will reverse sperm blockage or the repairing of a varicocele
- the retrieval of the sperm if, for instance, ejaculation has been an issue
For the woman, treatment options may include:
- fertility drugs in order to stimulate and regulate ovulation
- intrauterine insemination (where the sperm are inserted directly into the uterus during the time that the doctor has determined that the egg can be fertilized)
- surgery to fix endometrial polyps, blockage in the fallopian tubes or intrauterine scar tissue
- in vitro fertilization (where the woman's eggs are retrieved from her uterus, fertilized with the man’s sperm in a lab, then implanted back into the uterus - a surrogate with a healthy uterus, donor eggs, or donor sperm may be used if the couple cannot use their own)
There are certain factors that will determine the probability that these treatments will be a success. A good doctor will be sure to communicate all of these to you before starting your treatments and getting your hopes high. These factors include:
Being an older woman means that there are fewer eggs to fertilize and that their quality is lower as well. The live birth IVF success rate for women under 35 is 40%. For women over the age of 42, the average success rate is 4%.
If the couple undergoing IVF treatment has achieved pregnancy together before, there is a higher possibility of IVF success. If there is a history of one or recurrent miscarriages, this may reduce the chances that IVF will be a success.
The type of infertility problems
Some infertility problems in males do impact the success of IVF, but it is also important to understand that success relies heavily on the female’s ovulation. Low ovarian reserve will greatly reduce the chances of success and require a large amount of ovulation stimulation drugs to create any option of success. The length of time that the infertility has existed is also an important factor. The longer that one or both people have been infertile makes IVF success less likely.
Using donor eggs
Using donor eggs, especially if you are over 35-40, can greatly increase the chances of success.
If one or both partners smokes or heavily drinks alcohol, quitting these habits can greatly increase the chances of success. The doctor will often tell the woman she has to stop smoking for 3 months before she can start IVF treatment. It has been found that women who smoke will need almost twice as many IVF attempts to see results and often experience more failed cycles
An infertility specialist does not want you to experience anymore disappointment and stress than you already have when it comes to your infertility, so they will be sure to communicate most of this information to you when discussing your treatment.
#3. To Learn About The Most Current Technology To Help Increase Their Success Rates
Infertility specialists are always paying attention to the different studies going on around the world, especially the ones that are showing high success rates. Also, their own clinic will often times hold one or many studies in order to find to answers to questions they have begun to ask while treating their patients.
For example, The Center of Reproductive Medicine is currently conducting studies on uterine fibroids and endometriosis pain. They invite anyone who has experienced the specifically required symptoms to take part in the study in order to help discover medicine for these ailments. Other advances that have recently been made around the world include:
Studies are being done to assist women who are unable to achieve pregnancy due to certain genetic diseases. The procedure is a controversial one, involving the creation of an embryo using the genetic material from 3 parents.
In vitro maturation
This is new technique that requires taking the mature eggs from a woman’s uterus and continuing to grow them in a lab. Once they are mature they are fertilized and implanted. It is still experimental, but could possibly help women with ovarian disorders to have children.
Swedish doctors have been working on coming up with a successful way to transplant a uterus in order to make pregnancy possible. After a lot of trial and error, at least 4 pregnancies have been a success. There are even hopes that, one day, it will be possible to implant a uterus in a transgender women.
These are only a few examples of the types of studies that are being done. There are hundreds of experiments and promising discoveries being made all of the time, and the most successful ones are giving infertility specialists hope that their treatments will continue to improve greatly with time.
#4. To Ensure That You Feel Completely Supported During This Journey
Dealing with the existence of infertility can make a person extremely overwhelmed and lonely. Infertility specialists and their clinics understand this completely, and the good ones will provide you with the help and support that can make a world of difference.
Often times, support options will include:
It is common for fertility patients to find themselves experiencing depression and anger, this is not only unpleasant, but can also interfere with their treatment and the potential of a healthy pregnancy. Clinics often have counselors who work with them on site or in the area that they can refer you to.
Fertility support groups
Knowing that you're not the only one that is experiencing infertility can help a lot. Clinics can connect you with these groups or refer you to ones in the area that will provide couples with a sense of safety and encouragement.
Referral to lectures and classes
It has been discovered that stress reduction techniques not only decrease symptoms of mental distress for fertility patients but also increase pregnancy rates. Because of this, going to mindfulness-based stress reduction classes for anyone struggling with fertility issues may be encouraged by some doctors.
Payment plans and financial assistance
Clinics will often refer you to companies that can help support you financially if the price of your treatment and care is too much for you to come up with all at once. Depending on your situation, companies like Prosper Healthcare Lending, can provide you with:
- financial help with fertility treatment or surrogacy expenses
- loans up to 100,000
- loans that will not affect your credit
- the option for anyone in your family or friends to inquire about a loan on your behalf
- the convenience of applying through your provider’s website
Linking up with insurance plans. Infertility doctors will often accept certain insurance plans depending on who you are covered by and the area you live in. Infertility treatment, unfortunately, is not considered an essential health benefit to be covered by the Affordable Care Act because it is considered to be a pre-existing condition.
However, an insurance company cannot refuse to cover you because you are diagnosed as infertile. According to the National Fertility Association (RESOLVE), 15 states in the US provide at least some coverage for fertility treatments.
These states are below:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
If your state is not required to provide you with coverage, your insurance policy may still be designed to help you depending on your diagnosis. Take a look at your policy closely, it will most likely offer one of the following:
- no fertility insurance coverage
- insurance coverage for infertility diagnosis only
- insurance coverage for infertility diagnosis and limited treatment
- full infertility insurance coverage
- medication coverage (possibly including fertility drugs)
Choosing The Right Specialist
So, we have covered a range of things that all infertility specialists are sure to care about and want for you. It is essential that you find that the doctor you are working with does indeed emulate care and desire for these things.
Not only that, you should feel nothing but trust and safety under their care. With the right infertility specialist, you will feel confident about your treatment plan and as informed as possible about your state of health. If you do not feel this way, it is okay to look at other options.
Remember, this is your journey, no one else’s. The goal is to take care of you, and that should be your specialist’s goal too.