A fertility specialist is not your first line of recourse. Before seeing one, consult with your OB/GYN. He or she will:
• Conduct initial fertility tests
• Monitor your ovulation
• Perform basic blood work
• Prescribe you a rudimentary fertility treatment, such as clomiphene citrate
If you fail to conceive in six months after receiving this simple treatment, it’s probably time to consult with a reproductive endocrinologist, or fertility specialist.
The Role and Qualifications of the RE
A board-certified RE (reproductive endocrinologist) is a highly trained specialist who has:
• Obtained a medical degree
• Completed an RE fellowship of at least two years
• Passed a series of examinations
• Worked for a minimum of two years in the RE field
RE’s offer a variety of treatments and medications that go beyond those offered by an OB/GYN, including In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
What to Expect in the RE’s Office
At your initial consultation, you’ll be providing your RE with a lot of information. You and your fertility specialist will be discussing the history of your menstrual cycle, any past pregnancies or miscarriages, what forms of birth control you have used, any STDs you may have contracted in the past, your past and current fertility medications, and your surgical history. He or she will also want to know about where you work and live, what stresses you may be experiencing, and your family life and lifestyle.
The RE will conduct a thorough physical exam that will include an examination of the breasts, cervix, and thyroid. He or she will also look at the distribution of hair across your body. An excess of body hair might indicate an excess of male hormones, and that in turn can decrease fertility. When examining the breasts, the doctor will want to see if any liquid is excreted, because this could imply the presence of a hormone that is capable of preventing you from ovulating. When performing the pelvic examination, the RE will pay special attention to hints of infection, discharge, sores, or other unusual indications.
In the course of these initial examinations, a cause for your infertility may be discovered, but if it is not, additional tests will be conducted. Your doctor will then help you to draw up a fertility treatment plan that fits your particular needs and will work with you throughout the treatment process. Fertility treatments may include drugs, surgery, intrauterine insemination, or a type of assisted reproductive technology such as IVF, or, in rarer cases, ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer) or gamete intrafallopian transfer, which has the apt acronym of GIFT.