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What You Need to Know About Talking to Your Doctor and Healthcare Team About Infertility

What You Need to Know About Talking to Your Doctor and Healthcare Team About Infertility

This article is for people who are interested in learning more about getting pregnant and their partners, or anyone who wants to learn more about infertility (not being able to get pregnant). The goal of this activity is to help you talk to and work with your doctor and healthcare team about infertility.

You will learn about:

  • What infertility is and what may cause it

  • Factors that may increase your chances of infertility and symptoms to look for

  • When to bring up infertility with your doctor and healthcare team

  • Talking to your doctor and healthcare team, and questions you can ask

Test Your Knowledge

What Does Infertility Mean?

Infertility means not being able to get pregnant (conceive). It's usually defined as not becoming pregnant after you've been trying regularly for 1 year or longer by having vaginal sex (where your partner's penis enters your vagina) without using birth control or contraception.

If you're experiencing infertility, you're not alone. It can be common for both men and women and happen because of a problem that one or both partners may have that was present at birth or developed later on. Sometimes though infertility can happen because of no known cause.

What May Cause Infertility?

Causes of infertility can include problems with:

  • Any of the steps needed for ovulation (when an egg is released), fertilization (when sperm joins with the egg), and implantation (when the egg takes hold)

  • Hormones or hormone levels

  • Genes (inherited traits or characteristics)

  • The testicles, sperm (production, amount, movement, or shape), or how sperm are released (ejaculation) for men

  • The ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus for women

Factors That May Increase Your Chances of Infertility

There are risk factors for both men and women that may increase your chances of infertility. But there are certain ones that you can prevent or manage and talking to your doctor or healthcare team member can help.

Risk factors can include:

  • Age 40 or older for men and mid-30s or older for women

  • Smoking

  • Excessive alcohol or drug use, including marijuana

  • High physical or emotional stress

  • Exposure to certain substances, such as radiation or certain chemicals, hormones, medicines, or toxins

Factors That May Increase Your Chances of Infertility (cont)

Other risk factors can include:

  • Past abdominal (belly area) or reproductive system surgery or injury

  • Infection

  • Certain health conditions, such as living with overweight or obesity, cancer, or certain hormone or genetic conditions

For men, risk factors can also include diabetes and frequent exposure of the testicles to high temperatures. For women, extreme weight gain or loss, excessive strenuous exercise, being underweight, and living with an eating disorder are also risk factors.

Symptoms to Look for

For some people, there may not be any symptoms of infertility other than not getting pregnant. But for other people, there may be certain symptoms you can look for and talk to your doctor about, such as if you or a close family member have a history of infertility.

For men, other symptoms may include:

  • Problems ejaculating or getting and keeping an erection

  • Symptoms of a hormone problem, such as changes in energy or hair growth

  • Changes in size or swelling of the testicles

For women:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles, no periods, or abnormal pain or bleeding during your period

  • Pain or bleeding during sex

  • More than 1 miscarriage

If you notice any symptoms, contact your doctor so they can check to see if they may be affecting your fertility (ability to get pregnant).

When to Bring Up Fertility

You can talk to your doctor or healthcare team member about fertility at any time, even before you start trying to get pregnant. But if you've been trying for a year or longer and aren't pregnant, you should talk to them about possible causes of infertility.

You may want to talk to them sooner if you or your partner:

  • Have a history of infertility or a close family member who does

  • Are 40 or older

  • Are a woman 35 or older and have been trying for 6 months or longer

  • Have problems with your periods or menstrual cycles (for women)

  • Had abdominal or reproductive system surgery

  • Have or had cancer, a reproductive system condition, or a hormone condition

  • Had more than 1 miscarriage

Talking To Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

Talking about your sex life can be hard. But finding a doctor or healthcare team member you're comfortable with who understands your needs is important.

Getting pregnant can be different for different people, and your healthcare team can help you understand any problems that you and/or your partner may be having.

They can also talk to you about the best time to try to conceive and ways that may improve your chances, and check for any health conditions if you are having problems.

Keeping a journal or diary to record any symptoms, as well as how regularly and for how long you've been trying, can help you prepare for when you talk.

Dr Valerie A. Flores -- a reproductive and infertility specialist -- talks about bringing up infertility with your doctor and healthcare team.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

Questions you can ask can include:

  • When and how often should I have sex to increase my chances of getting pregnant?

  • Is there anything I should know about my or my partner's fertility?

  • Are there any symptoms of infertility that we can look for?

  • How can my partner and I lower our risk factors for infertility?

  • Are there any tests that we should have or other healthcare team members we should see?

  • What should I do if I feel start to feel stressed or depressed?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge

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You have successfully completed the program What You Need to Know About Talking to Your Doctor and Healthcare Team About Infertility.

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

Trouble Getting Pregnant


Infertility FAQs

Trying to Conceive

How Common Is Infertility?

Authors and Disclosures


Valerie A. Flores, MD

Reproductive Partners Fertility CenterSan Diego, CaliforniaAssistant Clinical ProfessorUC San DiegoSan Diego, CaliforniaAssistant Adjunct ProfessorYale University School of MedicineNew Haven, Connecticut Valerie A. Flores, MD, has the following relevant financial relationships:Consultant or advisor for: Myovant Sciences Ltd. (former).Speaker or member of speakers bureau for: Myovant Sciences Ltd.

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC. Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC. Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has no relevant financial relationships.


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