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What's a reproductive endocrinologist and when should you see one?

Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy (www.TheAdoptionConsultancy.com), an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn,...

A reproductive endocrinologist, also known as an RE, is a specialty doctor who completed a four-year residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology along with a three-year fellowship in infertility and reproductive endocrinology. This makes an RE the doctor you see when you are having problems with infertility. When you should see them and exactly what they do is the subject of many myths which I am ready to debunk.

"When is it time to see an RE?"

Deciding when to jump from your OB-GYN to your RE is a tough call. It depends on your age and a variety of factors. If you are under the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for a year, ask your OB-GYN for a referral to an RE. If you are over 35 and have been trying to conceive for six months or more, an RE visit is recommended.

There could be many other reasons you need to see an RE besides your age plus the amount of time you have been trying to conceive. Your medical history is a good indicator of whether or not it is time to visit, such as if you have ever had:

  • Ovarian reserve abnormalities, such as elevated FSH
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • A tubal ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • PCOS

"I can go see any RE out there"

The same way your OB-GYN is not qualified to treat infertility, REs have varying specialties depending on your unique fertility situation. If you already have an idea of what path you want to choose for your infertility journey, then read the bios of REs in your area to find one who specializes in the treatment methods you may choose. While an RE understands all areas of infertility treatment, each may specialize in a certain one.

On the same note, you need to choose an RE with whom you feel comfortable. The next step in your fertility journey is going to be invasive and uncomfortable to start with. Finding an RE who is a good fit will make the process easier.

"Seeing an RE means I have to start IVF"

Not at all. An RE will take a closer look at the source of your infertility problems and will start various therapies to find the ART that will work best for your situation. Contrary to popular opinion, IVF is not the most common treatment performed. There are many other options and your RE will figure out the path that will have the greatest chance of success for your particular fertility health.

"Only women need to see an RE"

An RE specializes in all forms of infertility, including male factor infertility. If a man has issues with his fertility, such as low sperm count or motility, then an RE can prescribe therapies to raise his fertility.

Understanding the differences between different reproductive endocrinologists, when you should see one and what happens once you see an RE will help you make a sound decision in your infertility journey.

Bio: Nicole Witt is the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility. You can visit the website at BeyondInfertility.com. She is also the owner of The Adoption Consultancy.

Image: laflor/Getty Images
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