If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, SGF Atlanta’s Medical Director, Dr. Desireé McCarthy-Keith, shared on The Suga podcast how it’s healthy to ask for help. Dr. McCarthy-Keith joined the hosts for a candid conversation about the basics of reproduction and the actions women who are struggling with infertility can take. This episode swells with emotions ranging from laughter to tears, but if there’s one thing listeners can take away, it’s that no one is alone on their fertility journey.

Listen to the Episode

Sneak peek into the episode: Facts about Fertility from Dr. McCarthy-Keith

Q: What are several factors for women struggling with infertility? Are there basic steps you can take to test for infertility in men and women?

Dr. McCarthy-Keith: You always have to go back to the basics: is it egg supply? Is it age? Are there sperm factors if there’s a male partner present? Are there anatomic factors? So, the basic fertility evaluation is always to take a full history – look at the couple’s age, check AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), and do an ultrasound to look for fibroids.
Many women, including me, walk around and don’t know they have a fibroid until they see an ultrasound and are asked, “did you know you had a fibroid?” and we answer, “oh, no I didn’t.” So, we perform ultrasounds to look at the uterus and ovaries.

We do an x-ray test called an HSG, which stands for hysterosalpingogram or it’s sometimes called a dye test. That’s where we flush dye through the fallopian tubes and take x-ray pictures from the outside of your abdomen. It’ll show the dye flow through and if dye pours out of the tubes, that confirms there’s no tubal blockage as a cause for infertility.

And then we do a semen analysis for all male partners. It’s a very common misconception to say infertility is a female issue, and we’re just going to check on the woman and if we don’t find anything, then we’ll do a test on the partner. You should always check on the male partner from the beginning because there are male factors present in 40 to 50 percent of couples, either as the primary factor or in addition to a female factor. Those are the basics that we evaluate every time to see what may have kept a couple from getting pregnant.

Q: How can your doctor test you for infertility before trying to get pregnant?

Dr. McCarthy-Keith: The first thing is for all women to just be aware of that curve that we’re all on. So being mindful of whether we’re in college, we’re going to professional school, in our careers, or just getting married – thinking about how my age and my fertility are changing. So, do I need to be trying to get pregnant now? If not, it’s very easy to talk to your OB/GYN and just say, “I’m thinking about getting pregnant later. Can we check an AMH blood test with my annual exam?” A pelvic exam at the time of your pap smear may detect large fibroids. So just having that conversation is important.

Words of Encouragement from Dr. McCarthy-Keith

When you come to someone for help, you don’t come for judgement – you come for help. And so for all doctors – male and female, black or other – we have to be here to help and to see our patients and to not pass judgement. We need to be compassionate and sensitive to them.

Other Fertility Topics Discussed

  • Why the AMH and FSH hormone levels should be among the first things women struggling with infertility get tested on
  • The evolution of the female body and its egg count
  • Male-factor infertility – it’s more common than you think, but nothing to be ashamed of
  • Fertility options ranging in cost

More Podcasts from Shady Grove Fertility Experts  

Ready to Learn More about Your Fertility Options?

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