When You Need to See a Doctor for Fertility Testing and Where to Start
Once you decide you’re ready to have a baby, it’s easy to feel anxious to just get pregnantalready. But for some of us, even the best cycle tracking apps don’t prove to be so helpful. So what’s the breaking point, and when should you ask your doctor about fertility testing? It turns out, it depends.
Although women can be fabulously awesome in any stage of life, fertility does have an actual success rate that is attached to age and lifestyle. To get the low down on what this all means, we caught up with Dr. Desireé McCarthy-Keith from Georgia Reproductive Specialists, an Atlanta-based team of reproductive medical experts, for details.
When should a couple see a doctor about infertility?
“Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex, or after six months when a woman is 35 years old or older,” Dr. McCarthy-Keith advises. “At any time, about 10 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant, which translates into approximately seven million women and their partners. The cause of infertility can be due to female factors, male factors or both. If you already have a history of infertility, low sperm count, tubal/uterine issues or ovulation problems, don’t delay in getting evaluated and on your way to treatment.”
Does age really have an impact on fertility?
Dr. McCarthy-Kieth answers, “All women have a natural decline in egg supply over time. This process begins at birth, with about one million eggs in the ovaries, and completes at menopause when the egg supply is exhausted. The loss of eggs from the ovaries is gradual through teen and young adult life, but the process speeds up after the mid-thirties. The loss of eggs is compounded by a decline in the quality of remaining eggs, which are aging as the woman ages. This natural change in the ovaries results in a lower chance of pregnancy and higher chance of miscarriage as we get older. There are no medical treatments that can slow down normal ovarian aging and the process is not affected by pregnancy, use of birth control or fertility treatment.”
So, the biological clock is real?
“The biological clock is real,” Dr. McCarthy-Kieth explains. “Although you can’t stop the clock, you should be aware of the great impact of your age on your fertility and seek evaluation and treatment sooner if you are having trouble conceiving now.” Dr. McCarthy-Kieth further advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle while preparing for pregnancy. This means seeing your OBGYN each year for your annual exam, using protection when getting frisky to prevent sexually transmitted infections, cutting out cigarettes and second-hand smoke and keeping your body healthy by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
Where should you start?
No matter how old you are, it’s not a bad idea to have a chat with your OBGYN at any point when you’re trying to conceive. Your doc can go over prenatal vitamin suggestions, lifestyle risks and any other health concerns from your medical history. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is especially important if you have a history of any health issues that could affect your fertility, such as endometriosis or sexually transmitted infections.
If you’re thinking about talking to your doctor about fertility health, consider asking your partner to get checked out too. Pregnancy is a two-way street, so it’s best to have both sides checked before choosing a course of action.