What is an REI?

Hint: It has nothing to do with outdoor gear! REI is a Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist.

Basic health care maintenance can be time-consuming and, depending on your insurance plan, expensive! For myself, I know that keeping up with all of my health maintenance and routine screening will involve an internist, an OB/GYN, a dermatologist, twice-yearly dental visits, and the optometrist. And, that’s not even for illnesses or new concerns!

While your general OB/GYN can take care of most of your needs, from pap smears to major surgery, you may be referred to a subspecialist, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist (REI for short), to help with the following concerns:

  • Difficulty getting pregnant (1 year of trying if under 35 years old, 6 months if over 35 years old)
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Multiple pregnancy losses
  • Have been told you may need surgery to correct an anomaly of your uterus
  • Someone suggested you may have difficulty getting pregnant due to conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Have a partner who has been told he may have difficulty fathering a child
  • Express interest in egg or embryo freezing

Reproductive Endocrinologist and Infertility Specialist vs OB/GYN?

So, how does an REI differ from your OB/GYN? An REI is a physician who is trained in the nuances of reproduction, from the basics, like the menstrual cycle, to the complex, like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Reproductive Endocrinologists complete a four-year OB/GYN residency. They then go on to complete a three-year fellowship completely dedicated to the field of infertility and reproductive medicine. During fellowship, they train alongside leaders in the field, and participate in research, culminating in a thesis project that must be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal for board certification. They’re well trained in ultrasound, meaning performing and interpreting imaging of your reproductive organs. They are also trained in evaluating reproductive related lab tests, and counseling you on your best options for your individual fertility goals. In total, your REI will have had, at a minimum, seven years of training beyond medical school—all with the goal of helping women understand their own bodies and make informed decisions regarding their reproductive health.

Infertility is a disease like any other, and we have treatments and strategies to help you become a parent

Planning Your Path to Parenthood

Your REI will have extensive knowledge on eggs, sperm, and in vitro fertilization. They will also be well versed in the pituitary gland, reproductive hormones, and other endocrine conditions, like thyroid disease, that can affect your ability to conceive. Should you have been able to get pregnant, but have suffered multiple pregnancy losses, your REI will be able to evaluate you for a condition known as “recurrent pregnancy loss.” If you have a condition like fibroids or endometriosis, an REI will be able to talk through the potential treatments for these conditions as it relates both to your symptoms and your future reproductive plans. Finally, if you’re not in a position to have a child, but know you want children, a REI can discuss the realities of age-related fertility decline and expectations for egg or embryo freezing.

A lot of what we do may sound scary, depressing, and, to be honest, costly. You’ll inevitably be told that fertility isn’t like a fine wine and does not get better with age.

Fertility Treatment and Strategies

But, not everything at the REI’s office is “doom and gloom.”

You will learn that infertility is a disease like any other, and we have treatments and strategies to help you become a parent, now or later. All told, we’ve spent over a decade studying to try and help you with these specific issues, and hope to help all of our patients see the light at the end of the tunnel, whether its parenthood, periods, or peace of mind.

Help us change the conversation