Are all fertility doctors the same?
Learn about the different types of fertility specialties, what they're called, and how they can help you on your journey.
There are multiple approaches to any medical problem, which may call for different sorts of specialists. Even within the specialty of fertility, there are a few different kinds of doctors you may encounter. Typically, a patient will want to find a care team that provides a range of related services headed by an experienced doctor who can help determine which additional sub-specialists might best be able to assist them going forward. In fertility, that key person is called a reproductive endocrinologist.
What is a reproductive endocrinologist?
Most of the time, when someone refers to a “fertility doctor,” they’re talking about a reproductive endocrinologist (or RE). Endocrinologists specialize in the body’s endocrine system, the glands that produce and release the hormones that regulate organ function. These hormones play a role in everything from growth to digestion, but play a particularly important role in human reproduction. So when a patient is concerned about infertility, consulting a reproductive endocrinologist is a smart first step.
REs are trained to run a variety of tests that help to narrow down the source of an individual’s infertility. They may diagnose a thyroid abnormality via a simple blood sugar check, detect malformed sperm in a semen sample, or measure a problematic level of one of the hormones related to ovary health. REs can also order x-rays of the uterus to help detect any physical irregularity or obstruction that is complicating one’s ability to conceive. They’re also the doctors who can prescribe minor surgeries such as a hysteroscopy or abdominal myomectomy to investigate or resolve uterine fibroid issues. Should these tests determine you’re a good candidate for infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination, your RE will take the lead on those, too.
What other kinds of fertility specialists are there?
Alongside reproductive endocrinologists, there are also specialists who are more highly specialized in particular fertility issues.
- An andrologist is a type of urologist who studies male reproductive health, which includes evaluating and treating male fertility issues. This can include a testicular biopsy, or the direct extraction of sperm for fertilization.
- A reproductive surgeon is a specialist, sometimes a gynecologist or a urologist, who may be better qualified for a particular surgery than a reproductive endocrinologist.
- Reproductive immunologists investigate and treat autoimmune issues when they lead to miscarriage or repeated IVF failure.
- Genetic counselors who specialize in reproductive medicine can help you interpret genetic test results and understand the implications they may have for your future family.
Each of these specialists work in cooperation with a reproductive endocrinologist to best manage a patient’s reproductive health and to treat infertility as efficiently and non-invasively as possible.
Of course, your gynecologist or urologist is also key in managing your reproductive health. It's recommended that adults visit a gynecologist once a year beginning at age 21 or a urologist once a year beginning at age 40, regardless of whether they're looking to start a family. However, fertility issues often require the care and attention of a specialist, someone who can help you to move forward on your path to parenthood. If you have been experiencing infertility — the inability to conceive after a year of well-timed unprotected sex — it may be time to consult with a reproductive endocrinologist. You can start a conversation with one of our specialists today to find the level of care that best suits your individual circumstances.