If you are struggling with fertility issues, you're likely experiencing ALL the emotions. Frustration, envy, pain, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and this is probably before your feet even touch the floor in the morning.
It can be a raw and lonely experience that may leave you feeling lost and unsure where to turn for support. So do you see your OB/GYN or head straight to a fertility specialist like a reproductive endocrinologist… and what's the difference between them anyway?
Here we break down the two areas of medical practice and explore when to see an endocrinologist for help with your fertility journey.
Reproductive Endocrinologist vs. Regular OB/GYN
An OB/GYN focuses exclusively on female reproductive health. They may treat issues with menstruation, menopause, contraception, pelvic organ, and urinary tract problems and support women through pregnancy and childbirth. An OB/GYN is generally the first doctor you will see on your conception journey.
Reproductive endocrinology is a subspecialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology. After completing the four-year OB/GYN training, a reproductive endocrinologist undertakes a further three-year fellowship focusing on the biological causes and treatments for infertility, making them specialists in this field of medicine. A reproductive endocrinologist can evaluate, diagnose, and treat infertility issues in both women and men, allowing them to help a couple holistically.
When to See an Endocrinologist
If you have concerns about your fertility, an OB/GYN is a good place to start. They will be able to undertake some initial testing and screening and refer you to an endocrinologist if an issue is found.
But what happens if you have been to your OB/GYN and you are still struggling to conceive?
Every day feels like an eternity when you long for that positive pregnancy test and you are acutely aware that lost time is not your friend. Add in a comment from a well-meaning family member, like "When are you going to have a little one… you aren't getting any younger!" and you might be ready to scream.
(On a side note, I like to respond to these questions with, "hey, what's in your uterus?"… this seems to shut it down rather quickly!)
In all seriousness, many factors can contribute to infertility, and it's essential to know when to see an endocrinologist so that you can receive help and support in a timely manner.
Length of Time Trying
If you are under the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least 12 months without success, then you should speak to your OB/GYN. Ask them questions about your unique issues and possibly inquire about a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. This helps promote communication with a doctor that cares.
As we age and sneak past age 35, our bodies naturally start to wind down reproductively. So, if you are over 35 and have been trying for six months, it is a good idea to be evaluated by a reproductive endocrinologist to detect any fertility issues as soon as possible. If you’re over 40 it is recommended to be evaluated after three months.
Possible Effects of Other Factors
So many women can take fertility for granted and may not make a connection between their physical symptoms and difficulties conceiving. While some medical conditions are well-known to impact fertility, other more subtle signs and symptoms might be dismissed as irrelevant. But the reproduction process is a complex beast, and some causes of infertility are only beginning to be understood (like the vaginal microbiome).
You know your body best, so pay attention to those subtle symptoms, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or medical conditions, talk to your OB/GYN about a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist.
Irregular, absent, or excessively painful periods – An abnormal menstrual cycle may signify hormonal imbalances or conditions that impact fertility.
Thyroid conditions – 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid issue during their lifetime, and up to 60% of those with thyroid abnormalities are unaware of their condition. Altered thyroid function can cause irregular periods and impact ovulation.
Multiple miscarriages – If you experience two or more miscarriages, you should consider seeking a medical evaluation to determine if there is an underlying cause.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – Is a hormonal disorder that impacts a woman's ability to ovulate regularly. It is one of the most common causes of female infertility, but medical treatment is available to increase the chances of conception.
Endometriosis – This is a condition where the tissue that usually lines the uterus grows in other areas of the pelvis, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and in severe cases, the bowel. Endometriosis can be extremely painful and can influence fertility in many ways. As many as 30% to 50% of women with this condition experience infertility issues.
Previous medical conditions such as cancer – Some cancer treatments can impact a woman's ability to conceive. A reproductive endocrinologist can evaluate whether your fertility has been affected and help you navigate the conception process.
Ask Your Reproductive Endocrinologist About PherDal
Infertility is one of the hardest things I have ever gone through, and if there were one emotion I wish I could give every woman struggling on this journey…it would be hope. Of course, knowing when to see an endocrinologist is important, but what's even more crucial is that women are empowered with knowledge and safe and affordable fertility options.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often the first procedure offered to couples experiencing infertility, but it is expensive and frequently not covered by insurance. That's what drove me to create PherDal.
Harnessing the science of intracervical insemination (ICI), the PherDal kit combines the sterile environment of the fertility clinic with the at-home capabilities of artificial insemination. ICI has the same success rate as IUI but can be performed in the comfort of your home at a fraction of the cost.
The PherDal kit is the only patented sterile at-home fertility option offering ICI and is currently under application to be the only FDA-cleared, safe at-home fertility treatment.
We want to empower you on your fertility journey. There is help available, and you do have options when it comes to treatment. Before seeing a reproductive endocrinologist, work with your OBGYN to try PherDal first. If you have any questions, we are here to support you in any way we can.