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What is Reproductive Endocrinology?

Reproductive endocrinology [en-doh-kruh-NOL-uh-jee] is a medical specialty for infertility, menopause, and other issues with reproductive hormones. Reproductive endocrinologists are OB/GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) doctors with special training to help both men and women with problems related to reproductive hormones.

Sometimes, this specialty is called reproductive endocrinology and infertility because much of their work focuses on helping women to become pregnant and carry a baby to term.

Conditions

A reproductive endocrinologist can help with any condition or need related to female hormones. These include:

  • Infertility. When you have trouble getting pregnant, the doctor asks questions and uses tests to find out what might be the cause. The doctor will then recommend treatments based on the cause.
  • Fertility preservation. You can save sperm, eggs, or embryos (fertilized eggs) when you have a condition, treatment, or experience that will affect your fertility. For example, a person who needs cancer treatment might decide to have her eggs or embryos frozen before treatment.
  • Frequent miscarriages. Some women can get pregnant but have trouble carrying the baby to term.
  • Endometriosis. Endometriosis [en-doh-mee-tree-OH-sis] is when the lining that builds up inside a woman’s uterus (womb) starts growing in other places outside the uterus. Each month, a woman’s hormones give the message to get rid of this lining, which happens during a woman’s monthly period. A woman with endometriosis can have a lot of pain during her period as the body tries to get rid of the lining from both inside and outside the uterus.
  • Menstrual problems. Some women have irregular or heavy periods or who don’t have periods when they should.
  • Menopause. Some women need help managing the hormone changes that come with menopause and making decisions about hormone replacement.
  • Sexual development. Sometimes, people need hormone treatment for their sexual development.

Treatments

Reproductive endocrinologists offer a number of treatments for reproductive problems including:

  • Assisted reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilization. Assisted reproductive technology is any procedure in which eggs and embryos (fertilized eggs) are handled outside of a woman’s body. The most common procedure is in vitro fertilization (IVF). The doctor removes eggs from a woman’s uterus and gets a sperm sample from the woman’s partner or a donor. The eggs are fertilized outside a woman’s body in a lab. A fertilized egg is then placed into the woman’s uterus.
  • Gynecologic surgeries. Reproductive endocrinologists do surgeries to remove uterine fibroids (noncancerous growths in the uterus), find and treat endometriosis, treat a blocked fallopian tube (the tube that carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), or address any other barrier to getting pregnant.
  • Hormone treatments. Hormones are used along with assisted reproductive technology to treat infertility or to help a woman carry a baby to term. Hormones are also used to treat certain causes of infertility, like polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Reproductive Endocrinologist vs. Regular OB/GYN?

Reproductive endocrinologists complete special training in hormones and infertility. They have expertise in a woman’s reproductive system because they are OB/GYN doctors. But they also have unique expertise in how reproductive hormones affect fertility and overall health.

When to See a Reproductive Endocrinologist

Talk with a gynecologist if you are thinking about seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. If you are trying to get pregnant and you are under age 35, consider seeing a reproductive endocrinologist after you have tried to get pregnant for a year. If you are over age 35, try for 6 months before visiting a reproductive endocrinologist.

You may want to see a reproductive endocrinologist if you have experienced any of these problems, especially if you are trying to become pregnant:

  • Irregular menstrual periods, no periods, or very painful periods
  • More than one miscarriage
  • Treatment or life experience that may affect your fertility
  • Endometriosis