So you’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year now, but it isn’t happening. Perhaps it’s time for you to make that trip to the fertility specialist.

And while you might think that is unnecessary, according to the National Infertility Association, infertility affects about 10 percent of American couples. However, many couples refrain from visiting a fertility specialist for the fear of being branded infertile. Such a diagnosis can be intimidating and overwhelming for both partners and can hamper their relationship.

Dr Francisco Arredondo, a board certified OB/GYN specializing in endocrinology and infertility who heads the Reproductive Medicine Associates in Texas, says, “I get this question a lot during social functions and even family gatherings. While there is no correct answer, the basic rule of thumb is that any couple trying to get pregnant for over a year should get checked, if they’ve been unsuccessful.”

Couples, in general, should overcome the fear of diagnosis and take charge of their fertility and overall reproductive health. Dr Jani R Jensen, MD, a specialist in the division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the co-director of the In Vitro Fertilization Program at Mayo Clinic, says, “At any age, couples should seek help if one or more partners suspect that they have problems with their reproductive health, based on previous problems, surgery, trauma, chemotherapy or radiation, or because they have been unable to conceive for six months. Cases where one or both partners have a history of fertility problems and they have been unable to conceive for six months definitely call for an appointment.”

The recommendations of the specialist can help them choose a treatment plan and can lead to a successful pregnancy. If you fall into any of the categories below, consult a specialist.

1. Women under the age of 35 who haven’t been able to conceive in the last 12 months
Joshua Hurwitz, MD and a Board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut, says, “Women are born with a set number of eggs for life. By the time a woman hits puberty and starts menstruating this number falls to approximately 500, 000. However, by the age of 35 these natural reserves of eggs start to deplete further.” Besides, women under the age of 35 should ensure that they have regular cycles and do not suffer from any reproductive issues. Consult a specialist in case you face any.

2. Women over the age of 35 who haven’t conceived after trying for six months
Women in this age group should be vigilant about their reproductive health and shouldn’t ignore any reproductive troubles. Irregular periods, extensive pain during menstruation and abnormal vaginal discharge could all signal a gynecological problem. Make sure you are completely honest with the doctor to ensure the right treatment plan.

3. Women who’ve had multiple miscarriages in the past
Multiple miscarriages could point to more serious gynecological problems. According to a recent British study, endometriosis can increase the risk of miscarriage by a whopping 75 percent. While endometriosis cannot be cured, it definitely is treatable. Your fertility specialist can help devise a plan for appropriate measures if such a problem is detected.

4. Men can suffer from issues too
According to Dr Jamin Brahmbhatt, male infertility expert at The PUR Clinic, Florida, “Male factors are responsible for over 50 percent of infertility cases. As a male it’s never too early or late to think about your fertility.” He explains further that men who have suffered from any testicular trauma such as infection, surgery or cancer are at a higher risk of fertility issues.

Remember, fertility issues don’t always stem from medical problems. Certain lifestyle factors such as stress, dietary habits and lack of adequate physical activity may impact your fertility. Dr Joshua Hurwitz says, “I’d like everyone to know that just because they are coming to a fertility specialist does not mean that they will necessarily need high-tech treatments like IVF. Most patients do very well with a full evaluation to see what is slowing them down and some very basic treatments may be all they need.”

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