An infertility specialist is a highly trained medical doctor who specializes in working with couples who are finding it difficult to conceive and have a baby. An infertility specialist works with a group of professionals to investigate the causes of reduced fertility and make a plan of treatment to help a couple conceive and carry a pregnancy to full term.
There are many causes of reduced fertility, and a couple is usually referred to a specialist after a reasonable length of time trying to become pregnant with no success, or sometimes where they suffer repeated miscarriages.
Older couples may be referred after a shorter length of time trying to become pregnant, as fertility naturally decreases with age and so it is important to address any problems with greater haste in the older couple.
The couple trying to conceive will have a discussion with the infertility specialist about their difficulty to conceive or carry a pregnancy to a healthy birth. The couple is likely to have already had counselling on natural ways to improve the possibility of becoming pregnant, for example by understanding the woman’s menstrual cycle and monthly times of peak fertility, any sexual dysfunction between the couple, stress, illness, and outside factors that could contribute to reduced fertility.
A fertility specialist gets involved when the cause of reducing fertility requires further investigations, and these will be explained at the appointment. The consultant will take an in-depth medical history and may need to ask questions that are quite personal. There are likely to be blood tests taken to ensure that there are no underlying health problems that could be contributing, for example, deranged hormone levels, or thyroid dysfunction. There may need to be examinations and sometimes scans to check for physical or structural concerns of the reproductive systems of both people. Some of the tests on the woman need to be done at specific points in her menstrual cycle, so she may be asked to call the clinic on the first day of her next period to make arrangements for time-dependent tests.
The tests performed are likely to include an ultrasound of the female reproductive system, which can be performed externally, like a jelly scan on the lower abdomen, or internally (trans-vaginally), where a slim probe is used in the vagina to view the uterus, ovaries, and associated parts on an ultrasound machine. This is to get the best possible views and so aid in the diagnosis of fertility problems. This kind of test will be performed in the most sensitive possible way, with a chaperone present, and every effort will be made to maintain the privacy and dignity of the patient.
Reduced sperm quality or quantity is sometimes a cause of reduced fertility, and so a fresh semen sample will need to be given for assessment. This can be provided from home as long as it can be brought to the clinic quickly.
The results of these tests will help the consultant plan treatment, and there are many options to help a sub-fertile couple conceive.