Infertility-related topics involve many technical and possibly unfamiliar terms, including this one: reproductive endocrinologist. What does it mean to be a reproductive endocrinologist, and what do they do as part of a fertility team? This article will discuss this important type of fertility specialist, including their training and certification, what services they provide, and when you should reach out to one.
Reproductive Endocrinologists Are Specialist Fertility Doctors
A reproductive endocrinologist (sometimes abbreviated to RE) is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who diagnoses and treats conditions that affect fertility, infertility, and the reproductive system. In simpler terms, an RE is a doctor who specializes in fertility and reproduction.
Typically, OB/GYNs focus on overall reproductive health and caring for patients during pregnancy and delivery. REs, on the other hand, receive additional education and training to identify and treat challenges involved with becoming pregnant. For this reason, an OB/GYN can refer a patient who has had difficulty conceiving to an RE for evaluation and potential treatment. A significant part of an RE’s specialization comes from their focus on something called the endocrine system, which plays a large role in reproduction and fertility.
What Does Reproductive Endocrinology Mean?
The endocrine system uses hormones to regulate the body’s processes, including growth and development, metabolism, and reproductive function. Doctors who specialize in the endocrine system are called endocrinologists. Reproductive endocrinologists, then, focus on the parts of the system that relate to fertility and reproduction. Hormone regulation plays an enormous role in fertility. In many cases, infertility is linked to hormonal issues within the body, either directly or indirectly. Similarly, hormones can also contribute to various fertility treatments. An RE uses their experience and training to diagnose and treat various causes of infertility, through a variety of methods.
What Does a Reproductive Endocrinologist Do?
An RE may use several different testing methods to evaluate and diagnose potential causes of infertility. New patients go through an initial fertility assessment to develop a comprehensive picture of their individual situation. This evaluation often includes blood testing to measure different hormone levels, ultrasound or other imaging to discover any anatomical challenges in the uterus or ovaries, and semen analysis. From there, your RE will review the results of the testing and discuss diagnoses and treatment options.
Fertility treatments range from methods designed to increase the chances of conception through intercourse (such as hormonal medications or minor surgeries to address anatomical issues) to assisted reproductive techniques such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Reproductive endocrinologists also treat LGBTQ+ patients looking to become pregnant and/or have biological children, individuals who wish to freeze their eggs or sperm for future use (fertility preservation), and people experiencing hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.
Who Should See an RE?
Many people start with their OB/GYN if they have concerns about struggling to conceive. Your OB/GYN can ask you some initial questions and refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist if needed. However, you can also schedule a consultation with an RE on your own. General guidelines recommend seeing a fertility specialist if you have experienced:
- Inability to get pregnant after approximately 12 months of trying, at any age
- Inability to get pregnant after 6 months of trying, when the female partner is 35+
- Two or more miscarriages
In addition, you should also see an RE if you are:
- An LGBTQ+ patient who wishes to get pregnant and/or have biological children
- Interested in fertility preservation (freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos)
- Wanting to discuss future fertility options before seeking gender affirming hormone or surgical therapy
- Interested in genetic testing to prevent passing on family genetic conditions
When it comes to fertility, knowledge is power. Having a clear sense of your reproductive health empowers you with information to decide what type(s) of treatment you would like to pursue.
How Do I Find an RE?
Choosing your fertility team is a big decision: it’s important to find a fertility clinic where you feel supported, cared for, and in expert hands. When considering fertility specialists, take a look at their background. Reproductive endocrinologists tend to specialize in particular areas of interest, which may line up with your specific needs. For example, Drs. Broughton and Rothenberg focus on LGBTQ+ family building and reproductive care. It can help to find an RE with expertise treating patients similar to you and your goals.
In addition, look for specialists who are board-certified in reproductive endocrinology. This demonstrates that they have gone through additional training and achieved a high level of expertise in their field.
Finally, keep in mind that your fertility team will include many other professionals and specialists in addition to your RE. Look for an environment in which you feel supported by and confident in every member of the team. At PNWF, our board-certified reproductive endocrinologists are supported by an expert team of nurses, coordinators, counselors, embryologists, technicians, counselors, administrators, and support staff, who are all invested in our patients’ care and success.
To learn more about our PNWF team, visit our staff page. And to schedule an initial appointment with one of our reproductive endocrinologists, contact us today.