Reproductive Medicine

Reproductive medicine is a general term used to describe the practice of medicine associated with any issue related to reproduction. These issues include family planning, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, puberty, sexual education, ovulation, pregnancy, menstruation, sexual dysfunction and menopause.

Reproductive medicine associates often work with practitioners in other medical fields including urology, andrology, genitourinary medicine, genetics and psychiatry. The field of reproductive medicine overlaps closely with the subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology called reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). Most physicians who practice REI treat infertility issues especially those caused by hormonal dysfunctions. Some REI-specialized doctors also study hormonal dysfunctions in both men and women outside of infertility.

This type of medical practice requires an in-depth knowledge of endocrinology, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology and molecular biology.

Reproductive Medicine in History

This type of medical practice didn't exist until the 20th century when more focus was placed on educating women about their bodies, pregnancy and childbirth. Before this time, the information women learned about their bodies and having babies was passed down through the generations by the women in the family.

Throughout history there was always some vague understanding that in order for a child to be born, a very specific act between a man and a woman had to happen. But no one knew exactly how this happened. In ancient times some cultures thought the birth of a child was the soul of a recently deceased person coming back to life. Others thought having a baby had to do with a wondrous deed from that particular culture's deity.

Much experimentation and research went into trying to figure out the origins of life. In the late 1600s and early 1700s a group of scientists called spermists made what was then the cutting edge conclusion that every sperm contained a pre-formed embryo that needed to find an optimum environment (that is the uterus of a woman) to grow into a full-formed human being. This theory didn't last long but while it did, it caused much distress over the "death" of all these potential human beings when sperm didn't make it into a woman's body. There was even a theory, started by British physician James Cook in 1762, that concluded that the embryos in sperm stayed in some sort dormant state until they found another male host and eventually an "optimum growth environment."

Scientific knowledge has progressed to the point that the theory of sperms containing tiny embryos sounds ridiculous. But many medical historians consider this time period a turning point in reproductive knowledge and reproductive medicine.

The Growth of a Medical Specialty

Entire centers for reproductive medicine weren't created until the late 1970s and early 1980s with an increase in the study of human artificial insemination and other assisted reproductive techniques. Now there are these types of centers all over the world. Many, like the Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine in Omaha, promotes itself as basically being a one-stop clinic that full equipped with state-of-the-art "reproductive medicine laboratories, modern surgery rooms, and private physician offices" that provides patients with "diagnostic testing, semen analysis, semen and embryo cryopreservation, in vitro fertilization and other reproductive services."

A Look at Some Well-known Centers for Reproductive Medicine

The Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine are located throughout the United States and specialize in in vitro fertilization. The success rate of these institutes is at 50 to 60 percent which is higher than the US average of 25 to 30 percent.

The Rinehart Center for Reproductive Technology has locations throughout Illinois and provides a variety of services including individualized infertility treatments, fertility diagnostic testing, male infertility diagnosis and treatment, fertility preservation, assisted reproductive technologies and a gestational surrogacy program. The Bonaventura Center for Reproductive Medicine in Indiana, which joined the American Health Network on January 1, 2011, and Baystate Reproductive Medicine in Massachusetts provide similar treatments.

Most medical centers for reproductive medicine don't promote natural childbirth techniques like hypnobirthing due to the high risk nature of the majority of pregnancies. Ask your doctor for more information about how realistic an option hypnobirthing is if this is something you're interested in.


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