Individuals and couples seeking fertility treatment are often confused about how to choose the best medical specialists. So what’s the difference between an OB/GYN and fertility specialist, and who provides the best care for your fertility challenges? We’re here to answer all your questions.
What is an OB/GYN?
The OB/GYN acronym is an abbreviation for obstetrician and gynecologist. Obstetrics is a medical specialty that deals with pregnancy and childbirth. Gynecology focuses on caring for the female reproductive system. An OB/GYN practices both disciplines, and may have a very broad practice that includes everything from routine PAP smears to treating infections and delivering babies.
Although most OB/GYNs are generalists within their field, some go on to complete additional training. For instance, an OB/GYN may pursue a subspecialty like gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, or maternal-fetal medicine. These fellowships all require an additional three years of education.
What Is a Fertility Specialist?
It may surprise you to learn that a fertility specialist is an OB/GYN with a subspeciality of reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Rather than a general OB/GYN practice, fertility specialists focus strictly on patients with infertility and hormonal issues.
Dr. Matthew Macer is a highly-respected fertility specialist and proud of the unparalleled patient-centered care he provides at Halo Fertility. Dr. Macer received his medical degree from USC Keck School of Medicine and completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University and fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UCLA.
When Should You See an OB/GYN vs Fertility Specialist?
Odds are you already see an OB/GYN at least once a year for regular exams and screenings. And if you’re trying to have a baby, you may have already discussed any fertility challenges with your OB/GYN. That’s good! Speaking to your regular OB/GYN is a logical first step.
Your OB/GYN can help you with some basic fertility testing and treatment, including helping you better predict ovulation and time intercourse to give you your best chance of conceiving. An OB/GYN can also evaluate you for some common causes of infertility. However, your OB/GYN will likely refer you to a fertility specialist if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 12 months, or six months if you’re over age 35.
If you’re having trouble conceiving or carrying a baby to term, a fertility specialist can help you determine the cause of your infertility. A fertility specialist also has more specialized knowledge and technology to treat infertility than an OB/GYN, providing you with access to more advanced treatment than you are likely to receive from an OB/GYN.
However, you don’t have to be suffering from infertility to see a fertility specialist. A fertility specialist can also run tests to check your fertility so you have the knowledge you need to plan for your future. And they offer services like egg and sperm freezing that help secure your future fertility.
Services OB/GYNs Provide
In order to better distinguish the differences between OB/GYNs vs fertility specialists, it’s helpful to look at the services each provides. Let’s start with OB/GYNs.
Because OB/GYNs see women of all ages, they offer a multitude of services, including:
- Pap smear
- Testing for STIs
- Pelvic exam
- Prenatal care
- Family Planning
Similarly, OB/GYNs also treat a wide variety of conditions, many of which are listed below:
- Cancer affecting the reproductive tract
- Sexual dysfunction
- Problems with menstruation and menopause
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases
- Vaginal ulcers
- Yeast infections
Services Fertility Specialists Offer
By contrast to the very broad and wide-ranging conditions treated by OB/GYNs, fertility specialists only offer fertility and reproductive endocrinology related services, including:
- Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
- LGBTQ+ Fertility Services
- In Vitro Fertilization
- Intrauterine Insemination
- Semen Analysis
- Egg Freezing
- Sperm Freezing
- Checking Your Fertility
- Third-Party Options
How Do You Know Whether to Visit an OB/GYN or Fertility Specialist?
You should regularly visit your OB/GYN for routine care and screening. And you should also visit your OB/GYN if you experience problems with your reproductive tract, have an infection, suffer from pelvic pain, or want help with family planning. However, if you’ve been working with your OB/GYN for over a year and have failed to conceive or have suffered multiple miscarriages, you should see a fertility specialist for additional testing and treatment.
Many people choose to visit a fertility specialist to get an idea of their own fertility, even if they’re not having problems. And a fertility specialist is the best choice if you wish to freeze your sperm or eggs.
A fertility specialist is also the ideal person to help with services like IVF, sperm and egg donation, and they can help connect you with trusted gestational carriers if you’re unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Some fertility specialists also offer hormone therapy to help relieve symptoms caused by declining levels of sex hormones or hormone imbalances.
Now that you have learned the difference between an OB/GYN and fertility specialist, you can make an informed decision about which is right for you. If you’d like to learn more about your fertility or get started on your fertility journey, we’d love to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.