Your OB/GYN is your first resource and go-to specialist for anything related to female reproductive health. In addition to providing annual exams, pap tests and sound health advice, they can also provide a wealth of information about fertility and your journey to conception. However, if you are 35 years or older, have been diagnosed with a condition known to cause infertility, or have tried to conceive for 12-months without success, odds are your OB/GYN will refer you to a Fertility Specialist.
What’s the Difference Between an OB/GYN and a Fertility Specialist?
A fertility specialist –also called an infertility specialist – is an OB/GYN with extra training in fertility issues. In addition to completing the rigorous education and experiential training for the OB/GYN medical path, fertility specialists will continue their education and training specifically in the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). In most cases, this requires an additional three years of intensive and highly focused training.
Board certified REI specialists have gone the extra mile (or five!) to complete up to 10 years of total post-graduate training. In order to receive their certification as both an OB/GYN and a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist, they have to pass four tests:
- The general obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) written examination
- The general obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) oral examination
- The reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) written examination
- The reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) oral examination
Once complete, certified fertility specialists must maintain their education and training and be able to prove as much via continuous literary reviews and written examinations every six years.
This specialty allows them to review each person, and couple, on a case-by-case basis to make a more in depth analysis of potential fertility issues.
When Should I See a Fertility Specialist?
Fortunately, most women and men will never need to visit a fertility specialist. However, when needed, a board certified REI specialist is your greatest ally in conceiving a healthy baby as soon as possible. In most cases, your OB/GYN will refer you to a specialist when their initial infertility evaluation and more traditional reproductive assistance medications are unsuccessful.
Consider making an appointment with a fertility specialist if you:
Are over the age of 35. It’s better to know any potential issues ahead of time if you are pursuing parenthood at an age where productivity is biologically programmed to slow down. The sooner any kinks or potential hiccups are identified and ironed out, the sooner you can conceive your baby.
You have tried unsuccessfully for 12-months. If you have tried to conceive for 12-months or more and haven’t been successful, a fertility specialist may be your next stop. Make sure you’ve communicated with your OB/GYN as there are tests she can run and prescription medications that may be able to help. If not, it’s time to move to Plan B.
You’ve had multiple miscarriages. Even though it’s hard to hear, miscarriages are perfect normal. In fact, most women with one or more children have at least a single miscarriage story in their history. However, if you experience repeat miscarriages – three or more in a row – you are best off visiting a reproductive specialist to see if the cause can be identified.
You (or your partner) have condition known to cause fertility problems. If you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, severe endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, undescended testicles, low sperm count/motility or other medical conditions linked to infertility, we recommend starting your reproductive journey with a visit to a specialist so you are prepared for what lies ahead.
It’s true that natural conception can take a while, but a fertility specialist can take the information provided by your OB/GYN to begin looking deeper. She will speak with you at greater length, run additional tests and procure lab results that can get to the bottom of things so you conceive your baby faster, whether it is naturally or with the help of assisted reproductive technology.