When you’re embarking on your fertility journey, you’re likely to encounter a reproductive endocrinologist. It’s possible you’ve never heard of this kind of doctor or perhaps you’ve come across the phrase in your research.
Basically, an endocrinologist specializes in the endocrine system, which is the system of glands in your body that creates hormones.
A reproductive endocrinologist is a type of obstetrician/gynecologist, also known as an RE. These doctors specifically treat disorders that occur in the endocrine system that may be causing fertility and reproductive issues. If you’ve had difficulty getting pregnant after a year or more of trying, you will likely be referred to an OB/GYN that specializes in the reproductive endocrine system.
What is the Reproductive Endocrine System?
The reproductive endocrine system encompasses the mechanisms, hormones, and regulation of the reproductive system and sexual organs. In women, these include the ovaries, estrogen, and progesterone. The ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone hormones that prompt puberty, develop breasts, and manage the menstrual cycle. They also support pregnancy. In men, the testes produce testosterone, which contributes to puberty, body hair, sperm creation, and the development of the penis.
When there are issues with the reproductive endocrine system, it can be anywhere in the hypothalamus–pituitary-gonadal axis. There is a wide range of symptoms that individuals can experience when disorders manifest here, including amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, hirsutism, virilization, infertility in women, and sexual function abnormalities and infertility in men.
What Does a Reproductive Endocrinologist Do?
Infertility or other issues with the reproductive system are prevalent, and many men and women cope with infertility. Up to 15% of couples are infertile. A reproductive endocrinologist can help treat infertility struggles with medicine, procedures, or surgery.
Reproductive Endocrinologist: Infertility Diagnosis
To determine if infertility is an issue, a RE can perform blood tests, semen tests, x-ray the reproductive organs, or do an ovarian reserve fertility test. These tests measure hormone levels like Estradiol, Anti-Müllerian hormone, and Follicle-stimulating hormone. Once these tests are run, the RE will have a better diagnosis.
Reproductive Endocrinologist: Infertility Treatments
The treatment method the RE chooses will depend on the results of the tests run, but they can prescribe a medication that might solve the problem or choose a procedure. Some of the standard procedures RE’s do include:
- hysteroscopy, which uses a small camera to examine the cervix and uterus,
- abdominal myomectomy, which is a surgery to remove uterine fibroids
- or laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgery lets the doctor see inside your body with another small camera.
These doctors will also perform IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF treatments. IVF treatments take time, around three weeks or longer, but they are the most effective technology doctors rely on to help infertile couples.
Conditions a Reproductive Endocrinologist Treats
Reproductive Endocrinologists treat:
- Reproductive organ abnormalities
- Delayed puberty
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Painful intercourse
- Uterine Fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, fallopian tube issues, ovarian cysts
- Low testosterone, ejaculatory dysfunction, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, post-vasectomy infertility
- Preserving fertility for individuals with cancer
- Hormone disorders
- Hormone replacement
- Repeated miscarriage
- Secondary infertility
Reproductive Endocrinologist Education
The journey of reproductive endocrinologist education is a long yet rewarding path. Those looking for how to become a reproductive endocrinologist will require a Bachelor’s Degree in a science-based field. The MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test, must be completed and passed to attend medical school, which is a four-year program.
Once the program is completed, they must finish a residency. A certification by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology OB/GYN must be done. After a specialized fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility or REI, there is a final written exam to become a reproductive endocrinologist.
Reproductive Endocrinologist vs OB-GYN
While OB/GYN and RE’s have some similarities, they have many differences in their respective fields of study. An OB/GYN focuses on female reproductive health, while RE’s focuses on all individuals’ fertility and endocrine system issues. OB/GYN’s specialize in menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, childbirth, contraception, STIs, UTIs, and surgeries related to these organs and the urinary tract. If a patient is struggling with infertility issues, they will be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist. RE’s are a subcategory of the OB/GYN field, and they must complete their residency with an OB/GYN, but the subsequent fellowship allows them to specialize in infertility.
When to See a Reproductive Endocrinologist
Knowing when to see a reproductive endocrinologist can be a challenge, but if you’re struggling to get pregnant after a year of trying and you’re under 35, you should see an RE.
If you’re over 35, it’s recommended that you try for six months and then book your appointment.
If you’re dealing with other issues like miscarriages, PCOS, absent, irregular, or painful menstrual cycles, endometriosis, or other fertility issues, you may want to consider seeing an RE. If you’re struggling with sexual function, abnormal breast growth, sperm count, or pain and swelling in the testicles, you should also see an RE.
Speaking with a specialist can be a fantastic resource if you’re going through your own fertility journey. At ELITE IVF, we provide you access to the top fertility specialists in the world, helping ease the stress of your infertility journey. We want you to have the best support network possible. If you’re ready to start your fertility journey, contact us today.