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Reproductive Endocrinologist to Phlebotomist: Who Makes Up a Fertility Care Team

During your first visit to a reproductive endocrinologist, you will encounter a lot of different members of a fertility care team. Below, we walk you through what a reproductive endocrinologist does and who makes up their team!

6 Second Snapshot

  • A reproductive endocrinologist (RE) is a fertility specialist. They provide more in depth insights into trying to conceive and fertility than an OB/GYN or Urologist.
  • Depending on your age, you should see an RE after six months to a year of regularly trying to conceive.
  • There are several fertility team players that will be a part of your journey.

What does a Reproductive Endocrinologist do?

A reproductive endocrinologist (RE) helps patients to uncover and treat fertility issues. They use assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and egg freezing.

After medical school, reproductive endocrinologists complete their OB/GYN residency (4 years) followed by a fellowship program (3 years). In the U.S., the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI) sets certification standards high, requiring reproductive endocrinologists to pass written exams every six years. Although SREI certification is not required, best-in-class fertility clinics typically only hire SREI-certified REs.

Reproductive Endocrinologist vs. OB/GYN: What's the difference?

OB/GYNs concentrate on all aspects of female reproductive health -- from menstruation and pregnancy to menopause. When you confront fertility challenges, an OB/GYN will refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist to get to the root of the problem. If and when you conceive, you will transition back to the care of your OB/GYN, typically after the 8-10 week pregnancy mark through birth.

Reasons to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist:

When should you move on from your OB/GYN to a Reproductive Endocrinologist? There is no hard and fast rule as everyone's situation is different, but it makes sense to schedule a consultation if you’re:
Under 35 years old: After one year of trying to conceive
Over 35 years old: After six months of trying to conceive

Besides struggling to get pregnant, there are a few other reasons to see a reproductive endocrinologist:

WomenMen
Family or medical history that may impact fertility (e.g. endometriosis, PCOS, early menopause, ovarian cancer)Family or medical history that may impact fertility (e.g., congenital anomalies)
Cancer diagnosis (pre/post-treatment) Cancer diagnosis (pre/post-treatment)
Carrier of hereditary/genetic disease Carrier of hereditary/genetic disease
Irregular periods Ejaculation issues
Egg freezing Low sperm count
LGTBQ+ or single parents by choice LGTBQ+ or single parents by choice
Women
Family or medical history that may impact fertility (e.g. endometriosis, PCOS, early menopause, ovarian cancer)
Cancer diagnosis (pre/post-treatment)
Carrier of hereditary/genetic disease
Irregular periods
Egg freezing
LGTBQ+ or single parents by choice
Men
Family or medical history that may impact fertility (e.g., congenital anomalies)
Cancer diagnosis (pre/post-treatment)
Carrier of hereditary/genetic disease
Ejaculation issues
Low sperm count
LGTBQ+ or single parents by choice

Fertility Care Team: Key Players

While a reproductive endocrinologist leads the show, a fertility care team comprises many different people. Here is a breakdown of who you will encounter, what role they play, and why you should care. It is a much longer list than you might expect - it truly takes a village.

IVF Nurse: Nurses work as the liaison between reproductive endocrinologists and patients. They juggle many tasks - from administering medications, explaining procedures, answering emails, holding hands, to wiping tears. However, a good nurse can make a difference in a patient's fertility journey.

IVF Coordinator: Some clinics also have IVF coordinators who are a patient's primary advocate during an IVF cycle. IVF coordinators can manage various tasks such as maintaining patient charting in an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, providing counseling on treatment protocols, and delivering pre-and post-operative care (i.e., egg retrieval and embryo transfers).

Embryologists: Embryologists are the unsung heroes of fertility clinics responsible for fertilizing, monitoring, and grading embryos in the IVF laboratory until they are viable for transfer. However, because they work behind the scenes, most patients never meet or talk to embryologists.

Genetic Counselor: Some clinics have an in-house genetic counselor who helps patients (or donors) document their family history and order and interpret genetic testing results to inform fertility treatment decision-making.

Ultrasound Techs: During visits to a fertility clinic, a patient does a lot of ultrasounds to evaluate the condition of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Ultrasounds are done frequently (almost every other day) during the ovarian stimulation phase of IVF and egg freezing to monitor follicles, the sacs that hold eggs.

Phlebotomist (aka Blood Drawer): Ultrasounds and blood work go hand in hand when evaluated and monitored during fertility treatments. A phlebotomist sees a lot of tears, not just from needle-phobic patients but also from anxiety-ridden patients nervous about their beta blood test (a.k.a. pregnancy) results.

Business Manager / Financial Counselor: Doctors and nurses in a fertility clinic do not discuss the financial components of fertility treatments. Instead, a business/finance manager will walk you through costs, provide you with financing options, and coordinate with insurance carriers.

Receptionist(s): Last but not least, the receptionist checks you in and out. Fertility treatments require frequent office visits for bloodwork and ultrasounds, and getting to know the front office staff can make rescheduling or reaching a hard-to-find doctor much easier.

We have listed the key members of a fertility care team. Still, depending upon your individual needs, you may encounter additional team members - a psychologist, donor coordinator, or alternative medical providers (i.e. acupuncturist, dietician).

The most important thing is you feel confident your fertility care team has your back and supports your fertility goals. If you haven’t found your fertility clinic yet, be sure to read our post on what criteria to consider when choosing a clinic.

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