What to expect: Your first visit to an infertility specialist
Are you and your partner thinking about seeing a fertility specialist? Plenty of couples are. According to 2018 Pew Research data, at least a third of Americans have used fertility treatments in order to try for a baby, or know someone who has. And according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just over 2% of all infants born in the United States each year are conceived using assisted reproductive technology (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF).
If you've already scheduled your first infertility appointment, it's normal to feel a bit apprehensive. To help you prepare for an upcoming visit, here are some things our SIU Medicine fertility providers want you to know.
Be prepared to review your medical history with your infertility specialist
At your first appointment, your infertility provider will go over your medical history and your partner's medical history, if applicable. This helps the medical team figure out what could be causing your fertility struggles and helps your provider decide which fertility tests will be helpful moving forward. For patients in relationships, we recommend that partners come to the appointment together.
During your first appointment, your infertility specialist will likely conduct a physical examination and order some blood and urine samples to screen for things like sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Your provider may also order some initial fertility tests, which can include:
- Semen analysis, to evaluate the quality and quantity of the male partner's sperm
- Uterine ultrasound, to evaluate the health and structure of the female partner's uterus and ovaries
- Evaluate the ovarian reserve of the female partner
- Uterine X-ray (hysterosalpingogram) to evaluate the health and structure of the fallopian tubes
- Hormonal tests to identify hormonal imbalances in a couple
These tests might be performed during your first appointment or scheduled for a later date. Your provider will discuss the results of these tests with you in detail as they become available.
Can I see a fertility specialist while I'm on my period?
Women can usually visit a fertility specialist at any point in their menstrual cycle. If you're someone who ovulates, your fertility specialist provider may ask you to begin tracking your cycle before your appointment, or begin tracking it after your appointment. Tracking ovulation is relatively simple and inexpensive to do at home, either by using an ovulation test kit or by monitoring basal body temperature.
Your infertility specialist will review your fertility treatment options
By the end of your first visit, your infertility specialist might be able to offer an explanation as to why you and your partner are struggling to have a baby. More likely, it may take some time and additional testing before any specific diagnosis can be made. Infertility remains "unexplained" for nearly a third of all couples who struggle with it.
But whether your infertility is explained or unexplained, your provider can use the first visit as an opportunity to answer your questions about common fertility treatments, including medication, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in some cases in-vitro fertilization (IVF). While discussing possible treatments, your provider will be sure to discuss the possible risks, benefits and expected outcomes of each option to help you and your partner make the right choice for your needs.
You'll get the chance to learn about additional fertility resources
This first visit with your infertility specialist is an excellent chance to learn about all the different resources that may benefit you and your partner. At SIU Medicine, we encourage patients undergoing fertility treatment to consult with mental health counselors who can help them navigate the sometimes difficult family planning journey.
Depending on your situation, you may also benefit from referrals to other specialists, such as a mental health specialist, dietitian or certified genetic counselor. Don't hesitate to bring up any questions you have with your provider and be sure to write down the date of any future follow-up visits.
Are you looking for a Springfield infertility specialist?
If you're from the greater Southern Illinois area and would like to meet with an infertility specialist who can help you on your path to parenthood, contact SIU Medicine at 217-545-8000. Our fertility and IVF providers are dedicated to helping individuals and couples from all walks of life achieve successful pregnancy outcomes.