When to See a Fertility Specialist

Samantha Butts, MD, MSCE
Dr. Butts

Couples who have been trying to conceive for months without success may be wondering when to seek professional help from a fertility specialist.

A fertility specialist is a physician specially trained in treating men and women unable to conceive. At Penn Medicine, all fertility specialists are board certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Infertility is a complex issue. “But the good news is that there are many treatment options available today,” says Samantha Butts, MD, MSCE, a Penn Fertility Care specialist. “For example, common medical conditions such as thyroid disease and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are some examples of conditions that affect fertility, but can respond to medical treatment.”

Dr. Butts advises that women under age 35 who have not conceived after a year of unprotected sex, or women age 35 and older who have not conceived after six months of unprotected sex talk to their gynecologist or primary care physician. There are things they can recommend before seeking help from a fertility specialist.

“If a woman has uncontrolled medical problems like diabetes, for example, she can work with her primary care physician to control it,” says Dr. Butts. “Pre-existing health conditions may impact her chances of becoming pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.”

But there are situations when women should not wait to see a fertility specialist.Man and woman holding hands

“If a woman is up to date with her medical and gynecologic screening, it is reasonable to see a fertility specialist straight away. In addition, women with irregular periods or conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis who have not conceived successfully should consult with a specialist. These conditions can be treated with surgery.” says Dr. Butts.

“Penn is at the forefront of emerging fertility treatments through research,” says Dr. Butts.

While 80 to 90 percent of patients know the reasons they cannot conceive, others never get an explanation as to why they experience infertility. If a patient’s tests all come back normal, but they still cannot get pregnant, this is referred to as unexplained infertility (no found cause) and accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all women with infertility.

“The good news is, even with unexplained infertility, there are still viable treatment options for couples, including intrauterine injections and in vitro fertilization,” says Dr. Butts.

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