Fertility specialists, sometimes known as reproductive specialists or as specific doctors such as reproductive endocrinologists, are doctors who treat infertility in men and women and help couples conceive.
All doctors need to complete medical school. Fertility specialists go to medical school to earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). After completing medical school, fertility specialists need to complete specialized residency and fellowship programs in their field of medicine. The term “fertility specialist” can refer to a number of different types of doctors who work on fertility issues like urologists, OB/GYNs and reproductive endocrinologists.
After completing medical school, students wishing to become reproductive endocrinologists are required to complete a 4-year residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
About 50% of infertility issues that couples face are attributable to the male, so fertility specialists also need to learn how to treat male infertility issues. After completing the residency program, fertility specialists must complete a 3-year fellowship training specifically in reproductive endocrinology.
To practice medicine in the United States doctors must hold a medical license from the state. Medical licenses are awarded after a lengthy examination, and other requirements for the license will depend on the individual state. The license allows doctors to practice any type of medicine but does not show expertise in any one field.
Reproductive endocrinologists gain two board certifications—one in obstetrics and gynecology and one in reproductive endocrinology— through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology after completing extensive written and oral examinations.
To maintain certification doctors are required to maintain professional standards, complete continuing education classes, and to eventually retake the examination.
Where Fertility Specialists Work
Fertility specialists work in a variety of settings, including private and group practices, fertility clinics, and hospitals. They may also work in clinical, research, and educational settings. These specialists will work in different locations depending on which type of doctor they are (OB/GYN, urologist, reproductive endocrinologist).
How They Help People
Fertility specialists specialize in obstetrics and gynecology and have an in-depth knowledge of various factors that influence fertility in both men and women. These doctors help couples conceive, and may work with a team of other doctors to administer fertility treatments.
According to a National Survey of Family Growth by the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. About 8 million women, or 11% of all women, receive infertility treatments at some point in their lives. 50% of infertility issues are attributable to the man, 50% to the woman, and a small percentage to a combination of the two.
When a patient sees a fertility specialist the doctor will first discuss the patient's medical history, diet, and lifestyle, and sexual practices. The doctor will give the patient a full physical exam along with a pelvic and genital exam and sometimes a breast exam and Pap test for women.
Reproductive endocrinologists know how to complete procedures for:
- Infertility tests
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Ovulation problems
- Hormonal dysfunctions
- Hypothalamic-pituitary dysfunction
- Other congenital and genetic problems (including uterine anomalies)
- Tubal factor infertility
- In-vitro fertilization
- Fertility preservation
General fertility specialists will also perform procedures for other infertility conditions like erectile dysfunction or women hormonal imbalances that require drugs. Fertility specialists will administer drugs to make ovulation occur more regularly, will diagnose problems with reproductive organs and treat them or coordinate a surgical procedure, and will perform intrauterine insemination procedures.
The average income of a fertility specialist is about $326,000.
Medical Negligence and Fertility Specialists
Fertility specialists refer to different doctors who perform different procedures, so malpractice in the field comes in many different forms. Malpractice in this field usually comes in three major categories:
- Injuries to the women and men receiving treatments, either from surgery, small non-surgical procedure, or medication errors
- Wrongful birth cases that bring birth defects, unintended pregnancies, or are the result of a clinical mix up (using the wrong sperm for insemination or implanting the wrong embryos)
- Disclosure of information: infertility treatments may involve sperm from a donor, surrogate pregnancies, or adoption. Doctors must respect the wishes of their patients in regards to information that is released or kept private.
Malpractice can also occur when fertility specialists misdiagnose a condition and send patients down an expensive and lengthy treatment path. Fertility specialist, like all doctors, must operate at the standard of care and provide patients the same level of care that any other reasonable doctor in their position would provide.
The increased use of fertility treatments has come with the risk of excessive use of fertility drugs and procedures. Multiple women in recent years have faced issues with inexperienced doctors placing too many embryos or using too strong of fertility drugs creating multiple births and greatly increasing the risk for complications in both the mother and her babies.
Other causes of malpractice by fertility specialists include:
- Failing to adequately screen the sperm donor
- Damage to embryos or eggs
- Medical equipment failure
- Mistakes by the laboratory
- Incorrect advice
- Surgical mistakes
Sometimes fertility malpractice is not the fault of the doctor, but of the drug manufacturers who created a faulty or inconsistent batch of fertility drugs.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Errors in fertility treatments can have lifelong consequences for patients and can affect the entire future of their families. The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian understand the emotional and physical consequences of malpractice during fertility treatments.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while under the treatment of a fertility specialist, call our offices today at (800) 529-6162 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.