The general rule if you're under 35 is to try to conceive for one year before seeing a fertility specialist. But if you have any of these 5 symptoms, you shouldn't wait that long—instead, it's worth booking an appointment with your doctor right away. Not only could treatment help you get pregnant more quickly, but it could even help catch other potentially serious issues sooner, too. The good news is that most of these conditions can be treated with medication or surgery so pregnancy can finally happen.
After stopping birth control, your body can take a couple of months to regulate. But if you don't get a period after three months, consult a specialist. "No periods suggests that a woman is not ovulating and has little chance to conceive without assistance," says Dr. Lorna Marshall, a reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle. "We like to intervene early with medications to stimulate ovulation." This might be as simple as popping a daily pill called Clomid to stimulate ovulation; if that doesn't work, the next steps are injectable meds, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
If you don't get your period regularly, you may never tell when or if you're going to ovulate. "Cycles that come sporadically are indicative of an underlying disorder related to ovulating, which can make conception very challenging," says Dr. Sheeva Talebian, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York. "The reasons are similar to a complete lack of periods: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders and hypothalamic amenorrhea," in which the brain's hormone-sending signals are off. Irregular cycles may also be a sign of diminished ovarian reserve caused by endometriosis or early ovarian failure.
Bleeding between periods
Generally, you should only bleed when you have your period. "Bleeding in between your cycles or after intercourse can indicate a uterine polyp or fibroid, or a cervical lesion," says Dr. Talebian. Besides the issue of getting pregnant, get this checked by a doctor just in case it's not something more serious like cancer, although this is rarely the case.
Very heavy periods
If you go through more than one pad or tampon an hour for several hours, pass blood clots larger than the size of a quarter or bleed for more than seven days, your period is unusually heavy. "This can be a sign of uterine fibroids," says Dr. Marcy F. Maguire, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey. "Heavy periods are also associated with certain bleeding disorders or endocrine abnormalities." Fibroids can be shrunk or removed if they inhibit pregnancy, and blood disorders can be managed with medication.
If you have really bad period cramps, pain throughout your cycle or after sex, it could be endometriosis. "With endometriosis, the tissue that's supposed to line the uterine cavity is found outside the uterus in the pelvis," Dr. Maguire says. "Endometriosis can lead to scarring of pelvic structures, reducing fertility and increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy." In addition, Dr. Marshall says, "Endometriosis may diminish a woman's egg supply, so we may recommend a faster-paced evaluation and treatment."
Pelvic pain with fever and an abnormal discharge could be a sign of infection, which may also lead to scarring. "Pelvic infection puts a woman at significant risk of tubal blockage," Dr. Marshall says. "A test to see if the tubes are open should be done soon after the couple starts to attempt conception."