A guide for patients (Meanings of medical words in italics are given at the end of this booklet)
A couple is said to be infertile when they have not achieved a pregnancy after two years of having regular, unprotected intercourse. If you have been trying to conceive for more than one year you may need to have tests for infertility. However, if you are in your 30s or older, you should begin the infertility tests after about six months of trying rather than a year, so as not to delay treatment in this age group. Also, if you have very irregular menstrual cycles (suggesting that you are not ovulating), or if you or your partner has a known fertility problem, you probably should not wait an entire year before seeing a specialist for treatment.
If you and your partner have been unable to have a baby, you’re not alone. One out of six couples has trouble conceiving. During this time, it is normal to experience feelings of frustration, jealousy and anger. However, once you begin to explore your medical options, you will find that fertility treatments offer more hope for a successful pregnancy than ever before.
The initial visit
Once you decide upon consultation, you and your partner will first be asked certain important questions by the doctor and your previous treatment records will be reviewed. Both you and your partner should attend the first meeting together since infertility is a shared experience and is best dealt with as a couple. During this visit, you will begin to understand the degree of commitment and cooperation that an infertility investigation is required.
In a typical initial visit, the physician will ask about-
- The frequency and regularity of your menstrual period
- Abdominal pain during periods
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Vaginal discharge, history of pelvic infection
- Medical illnesses.
- Previous pregnancies – if any
- Previous operations
- Methods of contraception used if any.
Your husband will be asked questions regarding –
- prior genital injury, operations or infections
- drug and/or medication usage
- Previous children if any
- Medical illnesses and treatment.
You’ll be asked how long you’ve been trying to conceive, how often you have sexual intercourse, if you use lubricants during intercourse, and if anyone in either family has birth defects. Your doctor will need to know the complete sexual and reproductive histories of you and your partner, including any former relationships.
Since at least 25% of infertile couples have more than one factor causing infertility, it is very important to check all factors that may affect both you and your partner. During the first visit, you may discuss the emotional stress of infertility, a subject that is often difficult for you to share with family and friends. Doctors know that the procedures and intimate questions involved in an infertility work up can be difficult. You should always feel free to make your physician aware of your worries and frustrations.