Confused about whom to consult for infertility related issues? Based on the queries frequently encountered during practice, the Gaudium team has compiled the below information that will help you take an informed decision.
What is the difference between a gynaecologist and a fertility specialist?
A gynaecologist is a doctor specializing in reproductive health and general medical care of women. They are the doctor you go to for health problems such as painful or irregular periods, infections in the reproductive tract, pregnancy care, and yearly health check-ups. Gynaecologists are qualified to perform surgical procedures such as deliveries and hysterectomies.
A fertility specialist is a gynaecologist who went on to specialize in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) after studying gynaecology.
A fertility specialist possesses the expertise to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of male and female infertility. With their in-depth knowledge of the human reproductive system and assisted reproductive techniques (what you simply know as IVF, IUI, TESA etc.), a fertility specialist helps childless men and women overcome infertility and experience the unparalleled joy of parenthood.
When should I see an infertility specialist?
You need to see an infertility specialist if you have been unable to get pregnant after trying for one year. Women over 35 need to consult a specialist after six months of trying to conceive naturally.
For most patients, their trusted gynaecologist is the first point of contact for infertility related problems. In some cases the gynaecologist is able to resolve the difficulty experienced in conceiving by educating patients about the ovulation cycleand about maintaining general reproductive health.
If required, your gynaecologist would do a preliminary infertility evaluation. If they discover a complex problem that requires specialized care, they should ideally refer you to a fertility specialist.
When is my gynae likely to refer me to an infertility specialist?
Your gynaecologist should ideally recommend seeing an infertility specialist in the following situations:
- If the initial testing indicates an issue best handled by a fertility specialist. For example if the woman has endometriosis or polycystic ovaries (PCOD) or the male partner’s sperm analysis indicates poor sperm count or nil sperm.
- If basic infertility treatment with oral reproductive medication has been unsuccessful.
- If the patient has had repeated miscarriages.
- If they are unable to diagnose the cause of infertility and believe that further detailed investigation is needed.
A major problem infertile couples face when they are hesitant to leave the comfort zone of gynaecological advice is that male infertility often gets overlooked, and significant time and resources may be lost before the couple realizes that it’s time to see a specialist.
A gynaecologist who has the patient’s best interests at heart would advise the patient when it’s time for them to see a specialist.
I am hesitant to consult an infertility specialist as I am afraid I may be tricked into going for IVF or other extensive procedure.
This is a popular perception about infertility clinics and unfortunately it is not entirely unfounded. Commercial fertility clinics have been known to misguide unsuspecting patients into undertaking unnecessary tests and ART procedures.
That is why it is extremely important to choose your fertility doctor after careful consideration.
At the same time it is equally important for patients to know that seeing an infertility specialist does not mean that you are automatically signing up for IVF.
What it means is that you have made the wise decision to consult a medical expert who is equipped to do in-depth analysis of your infertility, has the infrastructure and facilities to conduct specific tests, and provide customized treatment to help you conceive naturally. Only when there is no possibility of natural conception will a credible and ethical infertility specialist recommend assisted reproductive technology.
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