The Differences Between a Fertility Specialist and OB/GYN
January 19, 2023|5.2 min|
Ready to begin your path to parenthood? There are professionals at your disposal that can make this process as smooth as possible. Many first-time parents come into their family planning journey anxious about their ability to conceive and are unsure of where to begin. In this blog, we are answering the frequently asked questions, “What is the difference between an OB/GYN and a fertility specialist?”, “Can a gynecologist check fertility?” and, “Is it better to see a specialist first?” Read on to learn about the differences, what each professional specializes in, and where might be a good place for you to start.
What is an OB/GYN?
A visit to the OB/GYN is usually your first stop in your family planning journey. Simply put an OB/GYN is an obstetrician and gynecologist, meaning they can deliver babies and focus on women’s health. Therefore, an OB/GYN cannot diagnose men with infertility concerns because they solely focus on the female reproductive system.
According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, your gynecologist can perform a preliminary fertility evaluation. However, fertility specialists can create a more personalized treatment plan depending on your infertility causes.
What Does an OB/GYN Do?
So how can an OB/GYN assist you in your fertility journey? Some of the things OB/GYNs can check include:
STD prevention and detection as well as other vaginal infections
Diagnosing diseases and prescribing medications
Providing birth control solutions
Monitoring pregnant patients during term
Can an OB/GYN Perform Fertility Testing?
Yes – gynecologists can check fertility. Many assume that fertility can only be checked by a specialist, however, this is something that can first be addressed by your gynecologist.
Testing that a gynecologist can perform to check for fertility include:
Lab testing such as bloodwork and urine tests
Imaging testing using tools such as ultrasound or sonohysterography
Through these tools they can check for:
Fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease
Indications of high hormone prolactin
Ovulation and progesterone levels
Ovarian reserve/egg supply
When Should You Seek Fertility Evaluations?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends females under the age of 35 to seek fertility testing after trying to get pregnant for over a year with no success. For women over age 35, they recommend testing after 6 months of actively trying to conceive. If you are over the age of 40, speaking to a gynecologist is recommended as soon as possible.
Actively trying to conceive means that you are having sexual intercourse regularly without the use of any forms of birth control.
What are Fertility Specialists?
A reproductive endocrinologist (RE), or more commonly known as a fertility expert, specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that impede pregnancy and make it difficult for women to carry a pregnancy to full term. Your fertility specialist can diagnose both men and women dealing with difficulty conceiving and provide a holistic treatment for the couple.
A fertility doctor is basically an OB/GYN with extra training focused in fertility medicine. Post OB/GYN training, fertility specialists continue their education for an additional 3-5 years in reproductive endocrinology studies. After schooling they may even continue their research in infertility. After their studies, reproductive endocrinologists must also finish a fellowship program and additional residency training.
This is why fertility experts can create better targeted fertility treatments for patients who have struggled to conceive in the past or those who have undergone other treatment methods and have been unsuccessful.
Therefore, there are certain treatments and tests that fertility doctors have provided that an OB/GYN cannot.
What Does a Fertility Specialist Do?
Aside from all of the testing and techniques that OB/GYNs perform, fertility specialists can carry out those procedures along with many others.
Here is what a fertility specialist can do to improve a female’s fertility:
Recommend lifestyle changes to improve chances of conception such as regular exercise, diet, sleep, and limiting the use of drugs
So, When Should You Consider a Fertility Specialist?
After running a fertility evaluation with your OB/GYN, talk through the results with your doctor. They may even refer you to a fertility specialist. If your evaluation points to an underlying fertility issue, your OB/GYN may be limited in the treatments they can provide you with. Fertility concerns such as pelvic inflammatory disease or uterine fibroids may be better addressed by a fertility specialist. Other reasons why you may consider fertility specialist instead of an OB/GYN are:
You or your partner and under or overweight
You or your partner are over 40 years of age
You or your partner have had an STD
You have had more than one miscarriage
Your partner’s semen analysis came back abnormal or they have a low sperm count
You experience painful and irregular menstrual cycles
Now that you understand the difference between an OB/GYN and a fertility specialist, we hope this information is helpful to you in your family planning journey. Remember: seeking a specialist’s insight does not mean there is a need to worry. It is perfectly normal for couples to take several tries to get pregnant. Just because you haven’t conceived in your first year or 6 months of trying, does not mean you are infertile! Seeking medical advice is the first step in improving your health and supporting your fertility. Reach out and make an appointment with the fertility specialists at Red Rock Fertility Center to discuss your next steps toward growing your family!