fertility“Listen Up!” is the theme of this year’s National Fertility Awareness Week. Part of its focus is to help generate information and boost understanding of how infertility affects women.

The first thing we do as fertility specialists is to listen to our patients. We can then proceed to educate them based on what they tell us, so that they have a complete picture of their situation, and so that we can help them get pregnant.

Knowledge empowers women to take charge of their fertility and can help reduce some of the anxiety that inevitably comes with an infertility diagnosis. Knowledge of their fertility potential also allows patients to make informed decisions regarding their possible treatment, including the option to delay or expedite treatment depending on their particular circumstances.

 You Have Options

Infertility is defined as one year of regular, unprotected intercourse without conception. And the one-year mark is typically when we recommend initiating an evaluation. For women over the age of 35, we advise consulting with a fertility doctor after 6 months of trying, since there is a higher likelihood of potential issues. We also don’t want couples to lose too much time. Unfortunately, far too many women come to our office to initiate an evaluation after many years of unsuccessful attempts at conception. The chance of pregnancy declines with age. So, why do they wait so long?

There are a number of reasons for this. First, many patients simply think, “It will happen next month” and may not realize how long they’ve actually been trying to conceive. Couples will tell us they’ve been trying for a year using ovulation predictor kits, but when questioned further, they reveal that they’ve actually been having regular, unprotected intercourse for several years. They just did not consider themselves to be “actively trying.” From our standpoint, if you are not trying to avoid pregnancy (i.e., using some form of contraception), you are trying to conceive. And years of regular, unprotected intercourse without pregnancy is certainly concerning.

Second, many patients automatically equate infertility with in vitro fertilization (IVF). They avoid even an initial consultation for fear they will immediately be pushed into an IVF cycle. For many, IVF may be their best option but, in most cases, is not the only option. Patients should feel free to get the information necessary to understand their fertility issues and any and all possible treatment options.

Third, many people delay seeking evaluation because they automatically assume that fertility treatment is expensive and not covered by insurance. Thankfully, New Jersey is a “mandated” state, meaning that most patients with private insurance will have at least some level of fertility benefits.

As we mark National Fertility Awareness Week, we urge everyone out there trying to conceive to seek out all the knowledge that’s available to them. “Listen Up!” is a fabulous way to start. All women should take their fertility seriously and, at the very least, gather all the information and insight necessary so they can make the best possible decision.