When Should You Seek Fertility Help?

How Long You Should Try to Get Pregnant + When to Get Help Sooner

A couple on their phones preparing to seek help for getting pregnant
Deciding to finally make that doctor appointment to get help for your fertility can be anxiety provoking, but it can also offer you a renewed sense of hope. Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Getting pregnant isn’t always easy. For how long should you try to get pregnant before you see a doctor? When should you keep going on your own, and when should you seek fertility help?

While it’s easy to become impatient if you don’t get pregnant right away, it's also important you don't delay getting timely help.

It's time to talk to your doctor if any of the following fits your situation.

Recommended Time to Try Getting Pregnant

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, if a couple has not achieved pregnancy after one year of unprotected sex, they should seek professional help getting pregnant.

However, if the woman is over age 35, she shouldn’t wait so long.

In this case, it's recommended that a couple seek help getting pregnant after just six months of unprotected sex.

Despite these suggested time frames, some couples try without help longer than they need to.

Who Seeks Help, Who Doesn't, and Why?

Researchers in Britain surveyed 15,162 men and women ages 16 to 74. They asked them if they ever experienced infertility during their lifetime, and if yes, did they ever seek medical help?

Since everyone in Britain has access to health care, and many fertility treatments are covered by their national insurance, you'd expect high percentages of people seeking help.

The results were surprising.

Only 57.3 percent of women and 53.2 percent of men reported ever seeking medical help for their fertility struggles.

The youngest women and men in the group (ages 17 to 24) reported seeking help only a third of the time, 32.6 percent of the women and 14.1 percent of the men.

 

Why the couples hadn’t sought help is anybody’s guess. One possibility is that they didn’t know they should or could. The study found that men and women who were more educated, in higher socioeconomic classes, or had their first child later in life were more likely to have sought help.

The younger men and women that hadn't talked to a doctor may be assuming infertility doesn't apply to them.

While the risk of infertility increases with age, young men and women can be infertile.

Another possibility is that they aren’t interested in pursuing fertility treatments yet.

If you’re young, waiting to start fertility treatments until you’re ready isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, even if you’re not ready to seek treatment, seeing a doctor for some basic fertility testing is recommended.

Infertility can be a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Some causes of infertility worsen with time. So the longer you wait to seek help, the less likely fertility treatment will be successful for you.

Whether or not you plan on starting fertility treatments, you still might want to seek an evaluation from your doctor, just in case something more serious needs to be addressed.

Reasons to Seek Fertility Help Sooner

Not everyone needs to wait a six months to a year before getting help. In fact, some men and women should seek help much sooner.

If you or your partner have any risk factors or symptoms of infertility, you should talk to your doctor now.

For example, if a woman has irregular periods, endometriosis, or PCOS, or if either partner has a history of sexually transmitted diseases, seeking help right away makes sense.

If you have a family history of early menopause or primary ovarian insufficiency (also known as premature ovarian failure), talking to your doctor soon is recommended.

Also, if you have two miscarriages in a row, you should ask for a fertility evaluation.

Miscarriage is common, but repeated miscarriage is not. Having two or more pregnancy losses in a row may indicate trouble with staying pregnant (even if you're able to get pregnant easily.)

What if You Don't Want to Wait? How to Get Help Faster

If you really don’t want to wait a year before seeking help, but you don’t have any particular symptoms, you can try body basal temperature charting.

By charting your cycles, you may discover that you’re not ovulating regularly, or that your luteal phase isn’t long enough to sustain a pregnancy.

There’s no reason to keep trying without help if you discover these problems.

Also, some doctors will consider testing for problems before a year is over if a couple has charted body basal temperature for six-months, even if no problems are clear on the chart.

If by charting you can show your doctor that you’ve had sex at the right time of the month for six months, and you still are not pregnant, he or she may be willing to investigate.

Are You 40 Years Old? Talk to Your Doctor Now

If you're 39 or 40 years old, and just starting to try and conceive, it's worth seeing your doctor now.

They may be willing to check your FSH or AMH levels, or do some very basic fertility testing.

They may also tell you to just try for awhile and then come back if you don't conceive... but when you're pushing 40 years old, it's better to talk to your doctor sooner than later.

Who Should You Talk To and What Happens Next

Do you need to find a fertility clinic right away? Or can you talk to your gynecologist?

Unless you have a history of infertility and an established relationship with a fertility doctor, the first person you should see is your gynecologist.

Your partner should see a urologist to have his fertility tested.

Your gynecologist may be able to treat you if your case seems simple, or she may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist.

Your gynecologist or fertility doctor will run some basic fertility tests. Then, they will recommend treatment options.

Your job is to educate yourself, so you can make informed decisions. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

Source:

Datta J1, Palmer MJ2, Tanton C3, Gibson LJ2, Jones KG3, Macdowall W2, Glasier A4, Sonnenberg P3, Field N3, Mercer CH3, Johnson AM3, Wellings K2. "Prevalence of Infertility and Help Seeking Among 15,000 Women and Men." Hum Reprod. 2016 Sep;31(9):2108-18. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dew123. Epub 2016 Jun 30.

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