EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR FERTILITY SPECIALIST
Director, South Shore Center, Boston IVF
Fertility Within Reach Patient Advisory Council Member
Visiting a fertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist) for an initial appointment can be a daunting task. Knowing what to expect and what to ask your doctor ahead of time will help to decrease stress/anxiety and also help ensure you get the most out of your visit.
First, it is important to know that you and your physician need to be a good “match”. Keep in mind, there are many doctors who are highly competent at what they do, but may not necessarily be a good fit for you. The relationship that you have with your fertility specialist is unique and requires a close partnership with outstanding communication. This partnership goes beyond the experience, know-how, or even knowledge/intelligence of the physician. This is what some like to call the “art” of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology), and while it defies definition, to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Stewart, “you’ll know it when you see it”.
Many people are shy about asking questions, but you shouldn’t be. Your doctor wants to make sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment options too. And if you don’t understand the answers, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to repeat them.
Before going for the initial appointment, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
1. How long you’ve been trying to conceive (remember, having unprotected intercourse, even if you’re not really “trying” to conceive, still counts)
2. Your medical/family history, including any history of:
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- sexually transmitted diseases
- premature menopause
- cancer treatment
Based on the information you provide, your doctor should have a sense of whether or not you are at particular risk for having a fertility problem. You can then begin to discuss your potential testing and treatment options. Here are some of the things that should be covered by your fertility specialist:
- Your individual risk factors for infertility and/or miscarriage
- Specific tests to diagnose causes of infertility/miscarriage (male and female)
- Cost for any of the tests involved
- Timeline to diagnosis
- Based on the results of those tests, possible treatment options
- Communication during this whole process
- Emotional counseling options offered by the clinic
Sometimes, it can help if you write everything down in advance. That includes medical histories and questions you want answered. I’m sure we’ve all left a doctor’s office only to remember a question we meant to ask but forgot! While being prepared with your previous history as well as questions about your treatment, it is also important to allow your doctor to ask questions and explain the work-up and treatment options completely; inopportune questions can have a deleterious effect by interrupting the flow of ideas or the clinician’s train of thought. If necessary, refer to your list at the end to make sure that all of your concerns were addressed.
To summarize, treating conception difficulties is not all about medicine. You’re in a very personal, often emotional phase of your life that involves making major time and possibly financial commitments. With the right approach, you can take control of your situation by working with your doctor to draw up a fertility plan together.
RESOURCES TO SUPPORT ALL CONVERSATIONS
When communicating with employers, insurers and legislators, it is critical to share facts which support your argument that it is affordable for you to receive family building benefits, including the diagnosis and treatment of Infertility. Fertility Within Reach is happy to provide you with the following which provides supporting facts and sources to best prepare you: