Trouble Getting Pregnant? When to See an Infertility Specialist

Merely Me Health Guide
  • When you are trying to conceive, the arrival of your period can be very disappointing. Whereas once you may have been relieved to see your period, now it means one thing. No baby yet.  It also means you must start the process of attempting to conceive all over again. Trying to have a baby can elicit a rollercoaster ride of emotions as you wait and hope. But how long is too long to wait? When is it time to seek the medical advice of an infertility specialist? I have been on this personal journey of trying to get pregnant and then experiencing infertility for several years before giving birth to my now teenage son. In this post I am going to share my experience as well as provide some facts and statistics on the odds of becoming pregnant by age. We are also going to answer the question of how long to wait before seeking help from a physician specializing in fertility issues.

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    Which factors can affect my odds of getting pregnant?


    Your chances of conceiving during any given cycle are dependent upon numerous factors. Some of these variables include:


    • The frequency that you and your partner engage in sexual intercourse.


    • How long ago you have stopped using birth control methods especially birth control pills.


    • Whether or not you smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs.


    • If you have a history or symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).


    • If you have a history of thyroid disease.


    • If you have had any previous abnormal PAP smears.


    • If you have any history of eating disorders including anorexia or obesity.


    • If you suffer from endometriosis.


    • If you are having irregular periods and/or difficulty ovulating.


    These are just some of the factors and conditions which can impact upon your ability to conceive. For a full list of these factors please refer to Health Central’s Guide to the Diagnosis of Female Infertility.


    In addition to these possible underlying conditions, your age is also a considerable variable to consider with regard to your chances of getting pregnant.


    How does my age affect my ability to conceive?


    The general rule of thumb is that as we age it may become more difficult to conceive. These odds become markedly more diminished after the age of thirty-five. The literature provides varied statistics on the odds of becoming pregnant at different ages primarily because every woman is different. Some women have great difficulty getting pregnant in their twenties due to some underlying fertility issue while some women have little to no difficulty become pregnant even in their forties. The one piece of wisdom that I have gained in my experience with attempting to conceive is that fertility isn’t fair. There are no guarantees when it comes to having a baby. Statistics only show the trend for the general population and these numbers may or may not pertain to your unique situation.


    The odds of conceiving by age were listed in a recent Redbook magazine article where they cited the National Center for Health Statistics as their source. These statistics are for healthy individuals with no underlying fertility problems and who engage in unprotected sex for a year.


    If you are under 25: Your odds of conceiving within the year are 96%.


    If you are 25-34: Your odds of conception decrease to 86%.


    If you are 35-44: Your odds decline even further to 78%


    In contrast, other sources estimate that if you are age 35 you have a 55% probability of conception, at 40 you have 45% probability, and at age 45 the chances of having a baby plummets to 6%.


    Are there some things you should do before trying to conceive?


    If you are planning to have a baby it is imperative that you speak with your gynecologist to get his or her opinion on your physical readiness to become pregnant. Your doctor can then give you suggestions on diet, supplements, exercise and the impact of any medications you are taking on your fertility and/or a growing fetus. Your doctor can also do a complete gynecological exam to see if there are any medical issues which may hinder your chances of becoming pregnant.

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    You will also want to tell you doctor or gynecologist about any pre-existing medical issues which may affect your fertility such as previous miscarriages, irregular periods, any previous abnormal PAP smears, sexually transmitted diseases, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or polycystic ovary syndrome. In some cases a fertility specialist may be consulted early if there are known medical issues which may affect your odds of becoming pregnant.


    How long should you wait before consulting with a fertility specialist?


    In general, infertility is defined as failing to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse. Yet some people may not want to wait this long depending on your age and particular medical situation. In my personal experience, I had suffered a miscarriage and I also had irregular periods. I was in my twenties but after six months of trying with no luck, my gynecologist refereed us to a fertility specialist due to my gynecological history. I had experienced infertility for several years due to endometriosis and a failure to ovulate each cycle. In our situation it was critical that we started early to find out what was causing my inability to conceive and to treat these conditions before I could become pregnant.


    The most recommended guidelines for how long to wait include:


    If you are under the age of 35 and have no known health problems or fertility issues you can try for 12 months before seeking the help of a fertility specialist. If you do have any of the health issues or conditions I have specified above then it may be prudent to seek help sooner.


    If you are over 35 and you have been trying unsuccessfully for six months you may wish to consult with a specialist.


    If you are forty or older you may want to ask your gynecologist for a referral to a specialist based upon his or her assessment of your fertility. 


    It can require much patience to have a baby. Some women can conceive within a few months of trying while others may have great difficulty conceiving at all. If you are having difficulty becoming pregnant or suspect that you have medical or gynecological issues affecting your fertility, it is very important that you discuss your concerns with your doctor. The sooner these problems are detected, the more of a chance you will have in being treated and hopefully becoming pregnant. I was very fortunate that my fertility issues were resolved within several years and I am now the proud mother of two teen-age boys. If you are going through infertility please know that you are not alone. There is help, treatment, and support.


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    To find out more about infertility and related issues please refer to the following Health Central articles:


    Endometriosis and Infertility


    Infertility 101


    The Emotional Pain of Infertility


    Diagnosis of Female Infertility


    Treatment of Female Infertility


Published On: August 14, 2011