It’s an exciting time when you first decide you’re ready to grow your family. Maybe you begin by trying to “not-not get pregnant.” You stop your birth control pills or decide to get your IUD taken out. A few months go by and…nothing. You start to really focus on timing. You track your cycle and determine your ovulation window. But again, you have negative pregnancy tests month after month.
It’s frustrating and overwhelming when you want to be pregnant but are not actually getting pregnant.
The chance of getting pregnant any given month is around 20-30%. That means it really isn’t that easy to get pregnant even if there is nothing medically amiss. But when you’re not getting pregnant month after month, when do you know it’s time to see a fertility specialist?
Admitting It’s Time to Get Help
The first step is noticing and acknowledging there might be a problem, which can feel overwhelming. Admitting that things aren’t working the way you had hoped or wondering if something is going on in your body is scary. Do I really want to know if there is a problem? Maybe our timing is just off? Maybe I’m stressed?
Going to a Clinic is Not a Commitment
The next step is making an appointment and going to learn more at a fertility clinic. It’s important to remember that regardless of what happens in that appointment, it is up to you how to proceed.
There is no right or wrong timeline for treatment, although in some cases, diagnosis and treatment options may be age-dependent. Still, it is always your choice how and when you wish to pursue treatment. If you or your partner aren’t ready yet, that’s totally fine. Take the time you need to process what’s happening and understand your options.
Going to a fertility clinic is not a commitment; it’s just giving yourself the opportunity to learn more about your body and to get clarification on what needs to happen for the highest chance of pregnancy. Fertility clinics are filled with experts who want to help, and if there is a problem, they know what to look for and how to make a plan that will work for you.
Pick Your Fertility Clinic with Intention
Make sure that when looking for a clinic you find one that feels right to you. If you’re comfortable doing so, ask people which clinic they would recommend, read reviews and check their statistics on the SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology) website.
Not all clinics operate the same way and, as in any medical situation, you need to feel comfortable with your doctor and nurses, so do your research and ask questions. If you visit with one physician and aren’t happy with your care, find another physician. There are many options available and you shouldn’t settle for a provider or practice you don’t trust.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Appointment
Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering if you should make an appointment at a fertility clinic:
- How long have I been actively attempting pregnancy? If you are under the age of 35, it is recommended that you attempt pregnancy for one year before reaching out for fertility help. If you are 35 years or older and have attempted pregnancy for 6 months without success, then it is time to see a fertility doctor. However, there are other factors that can accelerate that timeline such as multiple miscarriages, irregular cycles or hormone imbalances. Another important reminder is that these are guidelines; they are not hard and fast rules. If you feel like you need help sooner, speak with your ObGyn and let them know that you are having concerns. It is hard to advocate for your own health but it is not pushy or dramatic to ask for what you need.
- Are my cycles regular? Although most women rarely have perfect 28-day menstrual cycles every month, you should be tracking yours. Do you get a period every 28-30 days? Also, with your period do you have pain or discomfort more than what you think others endure? It is never a great idea to compare something as subjective as pain, but if you are in bed doubled over every month, unable to get up or needing to take pain meds regularly to get through your cycle, there may be something else going on and you should discuss this with your doctor.
- Have I had abnormal hormone levels? Have you previously been diagnosed with thyroid problems? Do you take medication for a hormonal imbalance? Thyroid and other hormone imbalances can affect pregnancy. Make sure you have regular blood work and are being followed by a doctor to monitor your levels and current medications.
- Am I feeling overwhelmed, anxious or nervous about not being pregnant or trying to get pregnant? This is a big one because it’s hard to not think about being pregnant when you want to be pregnant. Also, the wait is real! Once you get a negative test, you have to wait another month to have the opportunity to hopefully see a different result. It is impossible not to think about it often. However, if it is interfering with your work, your friendships or your life, then it is time to see your ObGyn or a fertility doctor to discuss if there is something going on preventing pregnancy and if there is something you can do to better support yourself emotionally.
Treatments Take Time
Fertility treatments can take time. Expect that not only a diagnosis, but also a positive outcome, will likely take longer than you would like. It may take several months to conceive, even with help.
Manage Your Expectations
Attempting to manage your expectations about family building is not easy. But it’s important to enjoy a glass (one glass!) of wine after a stressful day, take a long walk with a good friend on the weekend, watch trashy tv and enjoy your spouse in the evenings. Although we all want to control everything we have the ability to control, this is really one area where attempting to over-control can lead to more harm, both emotionally and physically, than good.
Learn More About Your Body
Asking questions and being curious about your body only allows you to have more information. It doesn’t mean that you have to do anything differently or change your plan per se; it just gives you access to clearer information and hopefully gives you another way of looking at where you are in the process and what options lie ahead.
Trust the Process
Trust your process. And if you don’t, ask for help. If you are not connecting with your doctor or clinic, look at different options. Find your people, share what feels comfortable, ask for help and take a break when needed.
Getting pregnant isn’t always what we would have expected, but if needed, fertility clinics can get you the help you need to achieve the outcome you are hoping for. It might not always be quick or easy or look the way you want it to, but it’s possible to build a family. And you don’t have to do it alone.