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Houston Fertility Journal

    What is an Infertility Specialist?

    March 20, 2018 / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

    Center of Reproductive Medicine


    One in eight couples has trouble getting or staying pregnant. Yet many struggle for years without help. Only about 11% of people with fertility difficulties seek assistance from an infertility specialist. For some, it’s because they worry that a fertility specialist will cost too much. Others avoid fertility treatment because they think doing so means they are giving up. Don’t allow fear to color your decisions. Hiring an infertility specialist may be the best decision you ever make.

    Your infertility specialists sole goal is getting you -- or your partner -- pregnant, and ensuring the baby and his or her family remain healthy. Contrary to popular belief, working with an infertility specialist is the most economical way to get pregnant, and the most likely strategy to result in a successful pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know.

    What Fertility Specialists Do

    Many people think that an obstetrician/gynecologist is the best option to help them get pregnant. The truth is that these doctors specialize in general women’s health -- not fertility medicine. Fertility specialists, by contrast, are focused solely on helping people get and stay pregnant. This means they look at a complex interaction between hormones, physiology, how and when you try to get pregnant, nutrition, and much more.

    Fertility medicine exists on the cutting edge of science. Every five years, things change in major, significant ways. This means that what a family doctor learned in medical school about fertility medicine may no longer be accurate or useful. Fertility specialists are providers who stay on top of the latest research. They understand how even small changes in the way they practice can greatly increase the odds of a pregnancy.

    Importantly, fertility specialists offer another significant advantage: fertility specialists that provide in vitro fertilization (IVF) must maintain statistics on their successes. This means you can get accurate information about how many people the specialist has helped, rather than relying on bland reassurances.

    So what exactly do fertility specialists do? Their approach is holistic. They look at both partners. They’re also equipped to manage special issues -- such as fertility maintenance and special pregnancy needs in transgender populations, getting pregnant after cancer, pregnancy with a chronic illness, and pregnancy in high risk populations such as people with achondroplasia.

    Why Your Family Doctor Might Not Be Able to Help


    Most people begin their search for fertility help with a family physician or OB/GYN. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. In many cases, a family doctor can diagnose simple problems and offer a basic education on how to maximize the chances of getting pregnant.

    The problem is that family physicians are not specialists. This presents several concerns:

    • More complicated problems might go undiagnosed. So you might think you’re treating the underlying problem, when a more serious problem still affects your fertility.
    • Your family physician might not know the latest in fertility medicine. They might not know about potentially beneficial options. They could even give you inaccurate information based on outdated research.
    • Your doctor might not test you for everything.
    • Your doctor might give you one-size-fits-all treatment. When this treatment fails, you may be more discouraged, and have less money to fund infertility treatment.
    • If treatment with your provider doesn’t work, you will have wasted time. Time is of the essence in fertility medicine, since fertility declines with age.

    Perhaps most importantly of all, many OB/GYNs and family physicians practice according to three problematic myths. Those are:

    • Infertility is a woman’s problem. This is untrue. The woman is the sole reason for infertility in only about 40% of cases. This means that seeking treatment at an OB/GYN, who specializes in women’s health only, will miss 60% of infertility causes.
    • Infertility is always or usually due to one cause. Infertility has dozens of potential causes. In many cases, there are problems with both the man and the woman. In others, one partner has multiple problems. This means that getting a diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve discovered the sole problem. Treating only one issue won’t necessarily result in a pregnancy. But it can cost a lot of money and heartbreak. Fertility specialists engage in comprehensive testing to ensure they’ve identified each and every cause of your infertility.
    • IVF is the only real treatment for infertility. Many doctors prescribe a course of Clomid hormone treatment, but if that fails, they have little else to offer. They mistakenly believe that IVF is the best or only treatment. They may even convey this misleading information to their patients. While IVF can be highly effective, it’s not the only option. A fertility specialist offers comprehensive options designed to suit your values,  budget, and treatment goals.

    There’s nothing wrong with getting a referral from your family doctor. But you wouldn’t go to an optometrist if you had cancer. Infertility is a serious, and potentially devastating, health issue. It’s also highly treatable. Don’t deprive yourself of the most comprehensive treatment you can get.

    Who Should Choose a Fertility Specialist?

    If you or your partner wants to become a parent, it’s never too early to see a fertility specialist. That’s because these skilled experts offer the fastest possible route to getting pregnant. They won’t waste your time on unnecessary tests, offer treatments that are unlikely to work, or get your hopes up with outdated information.

    So if you’re hoping to start a family, consider seeing a fertility specialist no matter where you are in your journey. Because fertility tends to decline for all people -- not just women -- with age, the less time you spend trying to get pregnant, the more fertile years you have ahead of you.

    If you’re already trying and not sure when to see a doctor, it’s definitely time for a consultation when:

    • You are under 35, have no significant medical issues, and have tried for 12 months or longer.
    • You have had three or more miscarriages in a row.
    • You have had a second trimester miscarriage.
    • You’ve had a previous stillbirth.
    • You are over 35, have no significant medical issues, and have tried for 6 months or longer.
    • You are trying for a second baby and have a history of fertility issues, or you used IVF to get pregnant with your first.
    • You have very irregular periods, or no periods at all.
    • You have a known medical issue that is linked to fertility problems, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
    • You have a history of serious medical problems, such as organ failure, organ transplant, HIV/AIDS, cancer, chronic inflammatory conditions, or an autoimmune disorder.
    • Your cycles have not returned to normal three months after stopping oral contraceptives or six months after removing an IUD.
    • You have experienced complications associated with an IUD.
    • You are trying to become a parent without a partner.
    • You or your partner are transgender, or on hormone supplements or replacements.

    Benefits of Choosing an Infertility Specialist


    Many patients enter the Texas Center of Reproductive Medicine with a lot of trepidation, a hefty dose of fear, and quite a bit of hopelessness. Most eventually leave with a successful pregnancy. Don’t believe the myths. Going to an infertility specialist does not mean you’re giving up. Instead, it is the single best path to a successful pregnancy.

    Consider these benefits of choosing an infertility specialist:

    An infertility specialist is more affordable

    Infertility treatments can get expensive, particularly since insurance might not cover them. Indeed, finances are a primary reason why most people avoid specialist help. Yet a specialist can actually save you money. This is because:

    • You’ll get pregnant quicker, necessitating fewer treatments.
    • Your specialist may identify underlying medical conditions for which your insurance may pay.
    • You won’t spend money on treatments that are unlikely to work.
    • You don’t have to progress to the most expensive treatments.
    • Your provider will test both you and your partner, reducing the risk that you spend money on treatment when the untested partner also has an issue.
    • Your provider will talk to you about your budget and help you find treatment options that fit within that budget.

    An infertility specialist is more likely to get results

    Infertility specialists are focused solely on helping you get and stay pregnant. This means they spend all their time thinking about, researching, and attending conferences on infertility. They know about treatment options other doctors don’t, and have seen patients with issues just like yours. This rich variety of experience can be especially helpful if you have an unusual case. Your specialist likely still will have dealt with someone with a similar challenge, and can therefore give you information about the odds of a successful pregnancy.

    An infertility specialist can advise you about lifestyle changes

    There are many myths about infertility online. And some doctors believe them. It’s true that a healthy lifestyle may improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. For instance, losing weight may help someone with PCOS get pregnant, while increasing protein intake can be beneficial to some vegans.

    But no single lifestyle change or supplement will produce miracles. So it’s important to get information about lifestyle changes from an expert. Your infertility specialist will provide you evidence-based information on how to optimize your chances of a successful pregnancy. They can also advise on how to time intercourse to maximize the chances of conceiving.

    An infertility specialist may identify other health issues

    Sometimes infertility is the first sign of an underlying health problem -- diabetes, autoimmune diseases, PCOS, etc. When infertility is due to a health problem, your specialist can bill insurance for your treatment. This can save you lots of money, both by reducing your out of pocket infertility costs and by preventing the serious complications associated with untreated chronic illnesses.

    An infertility specialist can help your relationship

    Infertility is incredibly hard on relationships. That’s doubly true when you don’t know what is causing the problem. An infertility specialist takes the pressure off, offering you reliable help so you can get back to focusing on what matters most: the person you love. Simply feeling heard can do wonders for your relationship and your well-being. So if you and your spouse are growing apart because of infertility, it’s time to get outside help.

    An infertility specialist can refer you to other resources

    Knowing that you’re not alone is a powerful motivator. An infertility specialist can help you find resources that help you feel less isolated, including therapists, support groups, and message boards. Infertility is more than just a medical issue. It also makes life more difficult. By offering you support, your infertility specialist can help you regain a sense of control as you wait to become a parent.

    What to Expect From Your First Appointment

    During your first appointment with your infertility specialist, you’ll have a conversation about treatment goals, what you’ve tried before, your health history, and more. This first appointment may last an hour or more.

    Some questions your doctor might ask include:

    • How long have you been trying?
    • Are your periods regularly?
    • How frequently do you have intercourse?
    • When do you have intercourse relative to ovulation?
    • Are you taking ovulation tests or charting your basal body temperature?
    • Do either of you have a history of chronic health problems?
    • Do you have other children, or have you been pregnant before?
    • Do either of you have a history of STDs?
    • Have you tried other treatments?
    • What is your budget?
    • Are there any treatments you want to avoid or try?
    • Does your faith tradition prohibit any specific procedures?

    How to Choose the Right Infertility Specialist

    Choosing the right infertility specialist can mean the difference between a successful pregnancy and a lot of money spent on something that doesn’t work. So take your time when making your selection.

    Some strategies that can help include:

    • Asking friends who have successfully fought infertility for a referral.
    • Calling local fertility clinics to see how they treat you on the phone.
    • Reading online reviews.
    • Asking a doctor you trust for a referral.
    • Contacting your insurance to see if they cover a specific provider.
    • Reading several providers’ websites to see if you like their philosophy.
    • Interviewing a few clinics or providers. The best providers are eager to answer questions about their practice.

    Don’t just choose the first provider you find online. This is a choice that can affect the rest of your life. Spend some time to ensure you make the right decision.

    Questions to Ask Your Infertility Specialist


    Before you commit to any course of treatment or sign a check, some questions to ask include:

    • What is my diagnosis? How do we know that?
    • What tests will be needed to confirm my diagnosis?
    • What are the most important tests to have?
    • Is there anything we can do to minimizes costs?
    • How long will I have to wait to get an appointment?
    • Is there anything I can do to increase my chances of getting pregnant?
    • How long does it typically take to get pregnant for people with my diagnosis?
    • What percentage of people with my diagnosis eventually get pregnant?
    • What are your success statistics for the treatments you propose?
    • Can you give me a list of all of my treatment options?
    • Is insurance likely to cover any portion of treatment?
    • Do you offer financial counseling or financing?
    • Are there any symptoms I should watch for?

    Infertility treatment is an investment in your future, so treat it that way. Don’t be afraid to ask even intensely personal questions. And never hide information from your provider. Your doctor will keep your information confidential, even from your partner if you request. But to effectively treat you, your doctor must have all of the relevant details about your health and lifestyle.

    If you're tired of trying and not getting results, we can help. Don’t feel discouraged. Take action. Infertility is a treatable medical condition, and your odds of success are better now than ever before. Call the Center of Reproductive Medicine today!

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    Topics: Fertility Specialist, Infertility Treatment

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