According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, aboutÂ one in six women who are trying to get pregnant have trouble doingÂ so. All told, that’s about 7.3 million American women (orÂ couples) struggling with infertility.
Unfortunately, there aren’t generally advance warning signs of fertility troubleâ€”meaning most women donâ€™t know infertility is a problem for them until start trying to have children. And when that time comes, it can be hard not to get anxious aboutÂ what’s “normal” or not. Is three months too early to start worrying? What about 10 months? Just how long should one wait before calling in a fertility specialist?
â€śAmong healthy couple who are starting to conceive, about 85% willÂ have a pregnancy within 12 months,â€ť says Mylene W. M. Yao, co-founder and CEO of Univfy Inc. and a former Stanford University professor who has done more than 15 years of fertility research.
â€śIt doesnâ€™t mean that, for couples who havenâ€™t conceived in aÂ year, thereâ€™s an issueâ€”but that would be a good point to see aÂ doctor about it. Basically we donâ€™t want couples to keep trying on theirÂ own if there are specific medical issues that could be addressed.â€ť
Because the fertility window gets smaller asÂ women age, continuing to try the natural way could do more harm than good by delaying medical treatments that areÂ more effective when carried out earlier, Yao notes.
The ASRM recommends that if you are over 35 years old and haveÂ tried for six months, you should see a fertility specialist.
Your first fertility appointment
Nervous about making a first fertility appointment? Don’t be. The first visit will mostly be to find out if thereâ€™s anything in you or your partnerâ€™s health history that may make conception difficult or indicate further medical testing.Â The doctor will ask about any previous or current health problems, the regularity of your menstrual cycles,Â contraceptive methods you’ve used, whether youâ€™ve been pregnant before, and whether or not youâ€™ve had any sexually transmitted infections (which can, in some cases, damage your fallopian tubes, making conception difficult).
Even matters that seem relatively normal, like cramping or pelvic pain during or around the time of your regular periods, may be symptoms of potential concerns, like endometriosis.
â€śEndometriosis is pretty common,â€ť says Yao, â€śand can cause difficulty to conceive. Not everybody with endometriosis would have problems with fertility, but definitely some women with endometriosisÂ may have problems conceiving.â€ť
Other things that the doctor may be looking for are conditions that may affect your hormonal systems. For example, if your thyroid gland is not working properly, that could affect your reproductive function. So someone could be having fertility problems when their reproductive organs are all fine, but itâ€™s just a matter of addressing the thyroid.