Either six months or a year, depending on your age. “The general rule is that if you are under 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for one year or you are older than 35 and have been trying for six months without success, then it’s time to see a specialist,” says Aaron K. Styer, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and co-medical director of CCRM Boston. Trying to conceive (or TTC in internet-speak) means having sex without birth control during the timeframe of ovulation (opens in new tab).
Surprised? You're in the majority. According to an original survey (opens in new tab) Marie Claire conducted in partnership with SurveyMonkey (opens in new tab), 55 percent of Millennial women believe it should take just five months (or fewer!) to get pregnant.
Of course, that timing is just a guideline; your personal medial history may mean you want to talk to a doctor sooner. For example, if you’ve had a miscarriage (opens in new tab) within your year or six months of trying, that’s perfectly normal—in fact, approximately one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. But if you have more than one miscarriage during this timeframe, it’s a good idea to go ahead and see a specialist so you can rule out issues that cause recurrent miscarriages (opens in new tab)—which include a range of ailments, including autoimmune disorders, PCOS, diabetes, and uterine anomalies—to make sure those factors aren’t hindering your ability to get pregnant.
Those aren’t the only people who might want to book an appointment with a fertility specialist. Dr. Styer explains that if a woman has had irregular or painful periods, a history of abdominal or pelvic surgery, or has previously had more than one miscarriage, then she might want to see a reproductive endocrinologist before trying to conceive on her own.
The same goes for men who already know they have a history of low sperm count, poor sperm motility (e.g. the sperm do not swim or move quickly), or abnormal sperm morphology (i.e. the shape of a man’s sperm cells are irregular).
So if you’re, say, 29 and have been trying without success for eight months, don’t freak out yet. Give it a little more time. (That said, if you think it’s time to call a specialist, call one. That’s what they’re there for.)
When choosing your fertility specialist, Dr. Styer recommends doctors who, first and foremost, have solid training under their belt (five years of practice after completing a fellowship in infertility treatment and assessment), and board certifications in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
Need to whittle down the field of candidates? Look for someone who is “a known local and national expert in infertility”—you’ll find their name as the author of peer-reviewed publications, citation in periodicals, interviewed in articles about infertility and its treatment, and participation in lectures and education forums on their specialty.
But most importantly, he says, look for someone with “a reputation for being responsive and transparent with patients and sensitive to the stressors of infertility.” Your doctor is both your teammate and coach in navigating the world of infertility and its treatment, so be sure to pick someone who has both the credentials to help you tackle your situation knowledgeably and the personality to help you see your way through the ups and downs of the process.
Still have questions about getting pregnant? Check out our fertility FAQ here (opens in new tab).
Editors’ note: We use the terms “woman” and “female” in this article to refer to people with internal reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with internal reproductive organs identifies as a woman or a female. We use the terms “man” and “male” to refer to people with external reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with external reproductive organs identifies as a man or a male.
Jennifer Gerson is a Maggie Award-winning journalist whose reporting on reproductive rights, women's health, and sexual violence regularly appears in Cosmopolitan, as well as The Guardian, Yahoo, Allure, Teen Vogue, Mic and other national publications.
'Harry & Meghan' Shows Previously Unseen Photos of Archie and Lilibet
They're *so* cute.
By Brooke Knappenberger
Prince Harry Met Meghan Markle Through His Secret Instagram Account
Their relationship may or may not have something to do with the "dog ears" filter.
By Brooke Knappenberger
The Ultimate Guide to Paris
Where to stay and what to do in the City of Lights.
By Sara Holzman
Senator Klobuchar: "Early Detection Saves Lives. It Saved Mine"
Senator and breast cancer survivor Amy Klobuchar is encouraging women not to put off preventative care any longer.
By Senator Amy Klobuchar
How Being a Plus-Size Nude Model Made Me Finally Love My Body
I'm plus size, but after I decided to pose nude for photos, I suddenly felt more body positive.
By Kelly Burch
I'm an Egg Donor. Why Was It So Difficult for Me to Tell People That?
Much like abortion, surrogacy, and IVF, becoming an egg donor was a reproductive choice that felt unfit for society’s standards of womanhood.
By Lauryn Chamberlain
The 20 Best Probiotics to Keep Your Gut in Check
Gut health = wealth.
By Julia Marzovilla
Simone Biles Is Out of the Team Final at the Tokyo Olympics
She withdrew from the event due to a medical issue, according to USA Gymnastics.
By Rachel Epstein
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
We're going to need you to stop right there.
By Kenny Thapoung
3 Women On What It’s Like Living With An “Invisible” Condition
Despite having no outward signs, they can be brutal on the body and the mind. Here’s how each woman deals with having illnesses others often don’t understand.
By Emily Shiffer
The High Price of Living With Chronic Pain
Three women open up about how their conditions impact their bodies—and their wallets.
By Alice Oglethorpe