You know that saying “Knowledge is power”? Well turns out it’s actually true. The more you know the less nervous you’ll be when dealing with a new situation, and you will have greater control over what happens. Fertility treatment certainly presents many overwhelming, confusing, and intimidating situations to overcome. For example, when you meet your reproductive endocrinologist’s (RE) you are probably not going to be familiar with all the medical terminology, and facing the medicated cycles consisting of numerous complicated medication schedules and procedures can be intimidating. You’ll be less nervous and more confident if you know what to expect from your procedures and how the RE’s office operates. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Knowing the steps in the process and knowing the risks can help you manage the strong emotions you might experience during your treatment, and will give you more power over the whole process.
Here are some important questions to ask your RE:
1. What are your qualifications?
Ask your RE about their medical background, including training, accreditations, and experience. Most REs have undergone seven years of formal specialty and subspecialty training after medical school. This will not only reassure you, but since many REs specialize in certain areas it will help you figure out if your RE specializes in the treatment you need.
2. Who performs the procedures?
Ask who will be performing which procedures so you know when you’ll be interacting with your RE, the RE’s colleagues, or the nurses. That way there will be less surprises for you, and you can find out if your RE will do all of the invasive procedures.
3. Who will be my point of contact? Learn who will be answering your questions and the most efficient way to communicate with the office about your procedures. Sometimes it’s best to ask the nurse questions about your medication schedule and ask the doctor other types of questions. If you know the right person to contact, you’ll be more likely to get a quick response.
4. What types of fertility testing will I undergo?
Your doctor will evaluate you and your partner to identify infertility issues using physical exams and lab work to check for underlying diseases, genetic conditions or infections. Ask what these tests will be so you will know what to expect and why they are needed.
5. What types of treatments or procedures are offered?
Depending on where you go, some REs may specialize in specific fertility treatments or may choose not to perform certain treatments. Find out what they offer, and what order and combination of treatments your RE is likely to follow. Most times your doctor will start with the most minimally invasive and least costly option, but you may want to make sure that if you need to move on to the next treatment option, your RE does provide it.
6. What are the steps in my procedure? It will be very helpful for you, and less stressful, if you get a written form of your fertility treatment schedule for you to take home and read. This will let you learn as much about your treatment schedule as possible, and you will not have to worry about trying to keep everything straight and keep track of remembering when everything is. Don’t just get a schedule of appointments, ask for a calendar of your medication schedule, and activities to be performed at each appointment, such as when there will be a blood draw, retrieval, injections, etc.
7. What is your success rate?
Clinics have different ways of measuring success, so ask about the live delivery rate of a woman (or couple) with a similar diagnosis, age and treatment plan. This will give you a clearer idea of what you can expect for your specific chances of having a baby.
8. What are side effects of fertility treatments?
It’s important to talk openly about what side effects you should expect from your fertility treatment. Side effects may depend on the type of fertility treatment you undergo, so your clinic should provide you with a detailed description of the purpose of each medicine you take, along with the side effects of each medicine, as well as what side effects can be expected from your specific procedures.
9. What are the risks of twins or high-order multiples? You need to know the chances of having a twin or high-order multiples (triplets or more) pregnancy as well as the health risks this poses for the mother and the babies. What will your doctor do to minimize those risks, and what percentage of their procedures result in twins or higher?
10. How much does the fertility treatment cost?
Your RE should be upfront about the actual cost of your treatment plan. Infertility treatment can be expensive, and sometimes paying for it can take some serious planning, so knowing what cost to expect from the beginning will give you more time to figure out how to budget for it. Your health insurance may pay for part of the infertility treatment, and you should ask if your fertility clinic has payment discounts, coupons, and package deals.
11. Do they offer clinical trials? One way to possibly reduce the cost of your fertility treatment is to participate in a clinical trial. Ask your RE what the requirements are for eligibility in a clinical trial, and if you are eligible, ask how you can participate. Sometimes trials are cancelled, so you should ask your doctor about the possibility of this occurring as well as what the other benefits or drawbacks will be.
12. Do they encourage or recommend complementary or alternative medicine? Some REs do not use alternative medicine such as acupuncture, massage therapy, homeopathy, Reiki, and meditation in combination with medicated treatment, so if this is important to you make sure you pick an RE who is supportive of these approaches. Does your doctor have a referral list for these types of practitioners? If they do not encourage complementary medicine, will they still try to coordinate with your alternative efforts?
13. What outside resources do they recommend? Your RE may be aware of some great infertility resources that you would not find on your own, such as certain magazines, books, support groups, and therapists to help you manage the emotional and physical aspects of your treatment. Be sure to ask so you can have the most support and information as possible to help you successfully through your fertility journey!