Oftentimes your first fertility clinic consult comes after months and months (or maybe years) of frustration, fear and confusion.
It’s important to come prepared to that first consultation with your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) so you can get the most information out of your visit. In this piece, we’ll share tips on how to best prepare for your visit, the top 10 questions you should probably ask your RE and conversely the questions that he or she will most likely ask you.
First, here are a few things you can do before your visit to make sure you’re prepared:
- Research the clinics in your area and make sure you know the differences between them; bonus points if you have time to research the different REs themselves and have a strong point of view on whom you’d like to work with and why
- After you’ve selected your clinic and made your appointment, make sure the clinic has your current medical records and the results of any tests you’ve already had completed
- Brush up on your infertility vocabulary (you don’t need to have everything memorized, but you’ll feel less overwhelmed if you at least recognize some of the verbiage your RE is throwing around)
- Bring your ID, health insurance card and method of payment – also bring a notebook and pen so you can take notes
- Ask your RE to spell out any unfamiliar medical terms or tests so you can research it later if need be
- If possible or applicable, have your partner come with you; there’s a LOT of information to take in and having four ears in the room can make a big difference
Now, here are 10 good questions to ask your prospective RE at your first fertility clinic appointment:
- Which specific tests do you suggest myself and/or my partner undergo?
Before your doctor can suggest a treatment plan, they need to know what they’re working with. There are a variety of tests for both male and female partners that REs will recommend so they can start trying to determine the root cause of your fertility issues. Make sure you leave your appointment with a clear, bulleted list of the procedures and tests your RE recommends having done.
- What types of treatments or procedures does your clinic offer?
It’s good to get a sense of which specific procedures your clinic is willing or not willing to perform. Many clinics specialize in treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Your doctor may perform other procedures as well, such as vasectomy reversals or tubal reversals.
- What are my specific chances of getting pregnant?
Some doctors are squeamish about giving odds (especially if you are in the early stages of testing), but if you’ve already had some earlier testing done, your RE might be able to give you a rough ballpark. Make sure you ask specifically about your case, and not just the clinic’s success rate (although that might be helpful to know, as well). Ask what your odds are of getting pregnant naturally versus an IUI versus IVF treatments.
- How much does each fertility treatment cost?
The cost of fertility treatments varies GREATLY between providers, clinics, states and countries. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. Make sure you leave the appointment with a clear understanding of how much each treatment will actually cost (usually they have some pricing options in a brochure or printout, so you can take it home and gawk later at your discretion). Make sure you also ask if prescription medications are included in the pricing, and remember that those can cost anywhere from $2-5K more than the final rate they quote you.
How many REs are part of your clinic? Will you be doing all my procedures? Some clinics have many REs on staff, while others simply have one or two. It’s important to have clear expectations around who will be handling your case and performing your tests and procedures.
- Does your clinic perform procedures on weekends and holidays?
While most clinics are open during weekends and holidays, it’s a good idea to clarify just to make sure.
What are your feelings around alternative medicine (acupuncture, homeopathy, meditation, nutrition)? Unfortunately, many doctors get squeamish talking about alternative medicine treatments; but it’s important to find a practitioner who aligns with your own feelings and beliefs around nutrition and eastern medicine. Many REs see the scientific benefits in treatments like acupuncture, but it’s good to hear it directly from them.
- Are there any lifestyle changes you recommend that might increase our odds at conceiving?
Different clinics and doctors have different recommendations when it comes to lifestyle changes. Make sure you ask your specific RE for his or her thoughts on dietary, activity and lifestyle changes they think will help improve your odds.
- Which outside resources do you recommend?
Ask your RE if there are any specific books, websites or other resources they recommend you check out. Most doctors understand that Dr. Google is not only terrifying but also dangerously misleading, and will be happy to point you towards knowledgeable, helpful resources to help guide your future decisions.
- What are our next steps?
If you’re feeling positively about how the meeting is going with your RE, and you feel like you’d like to continue working together, make sure you have clear next steps before you leave. Whether those are some simple tests that need to be ordered or a prescription that needs to be filled, make sure you have a clear understanding of what happens next. If you need more time to consider your options or talk to your partner, that’s totally ok too—you should not feel rushed or pressured! This is a big decision and deserves thoughtful consideration. Just make sure you know who to call or what to request once you’re done conferring.
Make sure your doctor answers every single one of your questions. It’s hard to get these appointments and you don’t want to spend the next 4 weeks kicking yourself for not asking an important question just because you felt rushed. Literally print out these questions and cross off each one as you go down the list. Advocate for yourself and your partner. You’re the patient and it’s their job to hear your questions, answer them adequately and help direct you towards next steps that make sense for you and your specific situation.
Lastly, here are a few questions that your RE will mostly likely ask you:
- How long have you been trying to get pregnant?
- Have you ever been pregnant before? If so, what was the outcome of that pregnancy?
- What age did you first start having periods?
- Have you been treated for any gynecological conditions or have you had any pelvic or abdominal surgeries?
- On average, how many days is your menstrual cycle?
Finding the right doctor and the right clinic is an essential step in your fertility journey. You need to feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. What do you wish you had known before your big appointment? What are some other questions that you wish you had asked your RE in advance?