When should you see a fertility specialist?

By (gynecologist), (embryologist), (gynecologist) and (psychologist).
Last Update: 03/25/2022

Those who are unable to conceive, either due to infertility problems in the couple or structural infertility (single women or lesbian couples), will have to attend a fertility professional to fulfill their dream: to achieve pregnancy and have a baby.

Generally, at least 1 year of unprotected intercourse must pass before a couple is considered to have infertility problems.

This moment is the beginning of a new path that, depending on the type of patient and the cause of infertility, may last several years and even entail a psychological burden.

Probability of achieving pregnancy

Getting pregnant naturally is not easy even if the couple does not have any alteration in reproductive function.

Fertility in humans is approximately 15% to 20% per month, i.e. in the first month of unprotected sex only 15-20 out of 100 couples achieve pregnancy.

It should also be noted that the probability of achieving pregnancy is higher when sexual intercourse takes place one or two days before ovulation.

Experts in reproductive medicine say that after a year of regular sexual intercourse without achieving a pregnancy, the existence of some alteration is suspected.

In addition, the possibility of becoming pregnant accumulates with each menstrual cycle. According to the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF), the percentage of conception in fertile couples is distributed as follows:

  • With 3 months of exposure to coitus: 57% chance of achieving pregnancy.
  • With 6 months of exposure to coitus: 72% chance of achieving pregnancy.
  • With 1 months of exposure to coitus: 85% chance of achieving pregnancy.

Why wait a year?

As already mentioned, the conception rate of the human species is quite low. For this reason, it is necessary to wait a prudent time of 12 months before going to a fertility specialist.

Thus, although there is no defined standard for referring a couple to a fertility center, it is recommended that any couple that fails to achieve a pregnancy after one year of unprotected intercourse see a specialist.

However, this period is reduced to six months if the woman is older than 35 years or if there is clear evidence of reproductive problems, such as menstrual abnormalities.

Reasons for seeing a fertility specialist

The heterosexual couple that goes to a fertility specialist after a year of successive attempts without achieving pregnancy is not the only case in which this is recommended.

Other reasons why professional help should be sought are for single women and lesbian couples or to preserve fertility.

Heterosexual couples

After one year of frequent unprotected intercourse without achieving pregnancy, heterosexual couples should see a fertility specialist. In this way, the professional would determine the possible cause for not achieving gestation and establish the most appropriate treatment.

In the case of women over 35 years of age, the time after which it is recommended to see a specialist is reduced to 6 months of searching for a spontaneous pregnancy.

The fertility problem in heterosexual couples can be found in both men and women. It is estimated that in 40% of the cases the fertility problem has its origin in the man, 40% in the woman, and 20% in both.

If you want to learn more about the possible causes of infertility, you can continue reading here: What are the main causes of sterility and infertility?

Single women

Single women with a reproductive desire should go to an assisted reproduction center as soon as they wish to become pregnant in order to have a child. Obviously, women without a partner do not need to have any fertility problems to go to a clinic.

Therefore, in most cases, the most indicated treatment is artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID) for single women.

If you want to know more about the possibilities of being a single mother, you can continue reading here: How to become a single mother - Fertility treatments and prices.

Couples of women

Many homosexual women, as well as single women, seek fertility specialists without reproductive function problems. They are unable to achieve natural gestation due to the absence of a male partner.

In these situations, the specialist recommends two possible solutions:

  • Artificial insemination with donor sperm. In this case, only one of the female partners undergoes the treatment.
  • Reciprocal IV method, in which both women participate. In this treatment, one woman of the couple provides the eggs, while the other is in charge of carrying the baby resulting from the union of her partner's eggs and the sperm of a donor. The reciprocal IVF method is becoming more and more common among women.

For more information about the possibilities of being a mother in this family model, you can visit the following article: Assisted reproduction in homosexual women: being lesbian mothers.

Preserving fertility

In recent years, there has been a greater frequency of delaying childbearing for social or personal reasons, such as waiting for financial stability or finding a partner. In addition, as a woman's age advances, the number and quality of eggs decrease. For all these reasons, many women decide to preserve their fertility in order to be able to fulfill their desire to become mothers when they decide and with guarantees.

Another cause for which fertility preservation is recommended is cancer, as chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments can affect the reproductive capacity of men and women. In oncology patients, preservation should be performed immediately after learning of their condition, but only if the medical report allows it.

If you would like to learn more about preservation in oncologic women, you can continue reading here: Fertility preservation in women with cancer.

Going to a fertility clinic

When the time comes to seek professional help, you should choose an assisted reproduction center that you trust. This is of great importance since communication with the team of professionals must be complete. It is also advisable to opt for the possibility of receiving psychological support.

There, both members of the couple undergo the necessary tests to detect those factors that are influencing gestation. Depending on the results of the tests, patients are informed of their options and, if necessary, the assisted reproduction technique best suited to each situation is advised.

In addition, to know which fertility specialist to go to, we recommend you to visit the following article: How to choose the best assisted reproduction clinic for me.

Assisted procreation, as any other medical treatment, requires that you rely on the professionalism of the doctors and staff of the clinic you choose. Obviously, each clinic is different. Get now your Fertility Report, which will select several clinics for you out of the pool of clinics that meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, it will offer you a comparison between the fees and conditions each clinic offers in order for you to make a well informed choice.

FAQs from users

What is the goal of the fertility specialist?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

The fertility specialist will conduct a patient interview to fill out a medical history. In addition, a physical examination and additional tests are performed. Their goal is to be able to detect the cause of the failure to achieve gestation and/or to establish treatments to achieve gestation.

Is fertility the same as sterility?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

No. Fertility is the ability to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular exposure to intercourse. Sterility, however, is the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of trying.

How long does it take to see a fertility specialist if I already have a child?

By Marta Barranquero Gómez B.Sc., M.Sc. (embryologist).

In these cases the guidelines to follow are similar to those for the first pregnancy, i.e., you must wait 1 year maintaining regular unprotected sexual intercourse.

If pregnancy is not achieved, a fertility specialist should be consulted to establish the possible cause. In addition, the professional will take into account how long it took to achieve the first pregnancy.

If you want to learn more about the first visit, you can continue reading in the following link: The first assisted reproduction consultation.

In addition, one of the options for attending a fertility specialist is for preservation. I invite you to visit the following link for more information: Fertility preservation: egg and sperm freezing

We make a great effort to provide you with the highest quality information.

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Henrion R. Fertility of the woman over 40 and the risks of late pregnancy. Contracept Fertil Sex (Paris). 1979 Nov;7(11):819-22.

Ignaszak-Kaus N, Ozegowska K, Piekarski P, Pawelczyk L, Jędrzejczak P. Planning and preparation for pregnancy among women with and without a history of infertility. Ginekol Pol. 2018;89(2):74-79. doi: 10.5603/GP.a2018.0013 (see)

NICE guidelines.Fertility Assessment and Treatment for People with Fertility Problems. London: RCOG Press; 2013 (see)

Zegers-Hochschild F, Adamson GD, Dyer S, Racowsky C, de Mouzon J, Sokol R, Rienzi L, Sunde A, Schmidt L, Cooke ID, Simpson JL, van der Poel S. The International Glossary on Infertility and Fertility Care, 2017. Hum Reprod. 2017 Sep 1;32(9):1786-1801. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dex234 (see)

FAQs from users: 'What is the goal of the fertility specialist?', 'Is fertility the same as sterility?' and 'How long does it take to see a fertility specialist if I already have a child?'.

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Authors and contributors

 Juan M. Martínez de María
Juan M. Martínez de María
M.D., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine and Surgery from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the La Paz Hospital of Madrid. Master's Degree in Human Reproduction from the UAM. More than 15 years of experience as an OB/GYN specialized in the field of Reproductive Medicine. More information about Juan M. Martínez de María
License: 284505020
 Marta Barranquero Gómez
Marta Barranquero Gómez
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) in collaboration with Ginefiv and in Clinical Genetics by the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH). More information about Marta Barranquero Gómez
License: 3316-CV
 Valeria Sotelo
Valeria Sotelo
M.D., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Medicine from the University of Buenos Aires. Specialist in Gynecology & Obstetrics. Master's Degree in Video-laparoscopic Surgery, and Certificate of Specialist in Gynecology. Associate Member of the Spanish Fertility Society (SEF) and the Spanish Society of Gynecology & Obstetrics. More than 10 years of experience in the field of Reproductive Medicine. More information about Valeria Sotelo
License: 030309166
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

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