How to Prepare For an Appointment with a Fertility Specialist

Consulting a doctor before having a baby is crucial for having a healthy pregnancy and learning early on if there will be any fertility problems.

Photography by ©iStock

Photography by ©iStock

Once you’re thinking about having a baby, talk to your doctor. Make a visit about a year ahead of when you plan to start trying. Usually, your doctor will do a physical check-up, review your medical history and discuss factors that can play a role in getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.

  • Menstrual cycle: You may want to bring up a few things, such as your periods—are they every 21 or 28 days; are they on schedule; is your flow heavy or light; and/or do you have pain? Your answers can provide clues about potential problems with ovulation or other fertility issues, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
  • Lifestyle habits: You should discuss your diet and lifestyle too as your doctor can provide advice—like make sure to get enough folic acid (0.4–1.0 mg); maintain a healthy weight; and discuss how smoking and alcohol use can impact fertility.
  • Medical conditions: What if you have an existing condition, such as diabetes, lupus, or epilepsy? You may want to ask how the condition and the medications you take may affect pregnancy.
  • Testing: Do you need any tests or vaccines? Your doctor will likely suggest testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and getting vaccinated against rubella (German measles) before getting pregnant, since both can impede your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
  • Your other half: Your doctor will also want to know about your partner’s medical history and other fertility factors—he should get checked out by his doctor, too.

Potential Fertility Problems

Age and health are two major factors that can impact on your fertility. Some factors are specific to your reproductive system. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) reports that ovarian factors account for 25 per cent of infertility problems, while tubal factors account for 35 per cent. In about 10 per cent of cases, infertility is unexplained.

“There are three kinds of potential problems that can get in the way of pregnancy: eggs, sperm, and getting them together,” says Ed Hughes, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at McMaster University, Hamilton.

After trying unsuccessfully for six to 12 months, you’ll need to be assessed for potential stumbling blocks. As far as females, problems have to do with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), irregular ovulation, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, previous pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometriosis.

In males, fertility problems usually have to do with degrees of sperm abnormalities, and a history of major testicular injury.

Consulting a Specialist

If you end up seeing a fertility specialist, the first thing that will happen is a two-hour consultation and a number of tests for STDs and other health parameters, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Laparoscopy is used in women to find out if there’s a tubal blockage, possibly endometriosis; surgery is required before IVF or other treatments can be attempted. In males, fertility clinic work-up will include semen analysis to measure sperm count, motility (movement), etc.

From health factors that can affect fertility to drugs that increase fertility, we have much more information on conception in our Ultimate Fertility Guide.

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