Going to see an infertility specialist can be both daunting and give you hope. You may be entering a world that calls for learning new medical terms and about diagnostic tests you’ve never heard of. And, if discussing different treatment options such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), you might also have a practical discussion of what it may cost to achieve your family-building dreams.
Today, most patients are advised to be prepared when they visit their doctor and to have a list of questions ready to ask. This is certainly a good idea for you and partner when meeting with your infertility doctor.
There’s lots of advice available online about what to ask your fertility specialist during an appointment. Also, you may already know someone – a friend or family member – who experienced infertility and sought medical advice for a diagnosis and treatment. If you’re comfortable sharing your situation, it might be a good idea to ask about their experience and what they thought was helpful to ask.
The top 5 questions to ask your doctor (and the follow-up questions) fall into several categories:
#1 How Do Health and Lifestyle Habits Affect Us?
- Are there lifestyle habits that might be affecting our fertility such as smoking or alcohol use? Also, do high stress levels have an effect, and how should I manage the stress of infertility?
- Are there lifestyle changes my partner and I can make such as losing weight to improve our chances of getting pregnant/delivering a healthy baby?
- Are there any non-medical approaches we can try such as meditation
relaxation, yoga or exercise that could help us deal with major stress to help maintain our positive lifestyle habits and stay with our treatment?
- Could my partner or I be exposed to anything that could contribute to our fertility problems such as environmental toxicants?
# 2 How is a diagnosis made and what does my diagnosis mean?
- What is my diagnosis?
- Specifically, how does my condition interfere with fertility?
- Does my partner have a condition that interferes with fertility?
- Do these conditions worsen over time, improve, or remain constant?
- If the reason for my infertility is not clear, what diagnostic tests do you recommend?
- How likely are these tests to establish a diagnosis?
- Are there any risks associated with the testing?
- Does my partner need additional testing?
- How much do the recommended tests cost? Is my insurance likely to cover these?
#3 What type of treatments do you recommend?
- What type of treatment would you recommend trying first?
- Does this involve medication, surgery, or both?
- What are the risks of treatment? Are there any long-term effects?
- Are there less invasive treatments to try first?
#4 What are my chances for success with each type of treatment?
- What are the success rates for less invasive treatments? What are my chances to get pregnant if I don’t do any treatment?
- What are your live birth success rates with these recommended treatments? And, how many of these treatments has your clinic/practice performed?
- What are the chances of multiple births with your recommended treatment?
- How many cycles of treatment do you recommend before trying a different treatment?
- Do you recommend using donor eggs/sperm? If so, does your clinic offer these? (if this is an acceptable option for you)
- What is my prognosis? How likely do you think it is your recommended treatment(s) will result in a live birth based on my individual situation/that of my partner? Over what period of time would you expect pregnancy to occur?
# 5 How much do various treatments cost?
- What does the recommended treatment cost?
- Do you offer multi-cycle packages?
- Does my insurance cover any of the medications, hospital charges, or doctor’s visits?
- If there are any out-of-pocket costs, do you offer any special payment plans/financing options?
Besides the questions you will have for your doctor, he/she will have many questions for you and your partner to help determine the most effective next steps in making a diagnosis and/or recommending treatment options. The information likely to be collected includes details about chronic illnesses, prior surgeries and/or hospitalizations, and any previous testing or treatment for fertility-related conditions. The doctor will also ask you about your lifestyle including use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or any medications and your stress level. You may also be asked if you or your partner have been exposed to certain toxicants at home or in the workplace and if your male partner is exposed to excessive heat which can affect sperm.
Starting on your infertility journey can feel complicated and overwhelming. Selecting a well-established fertility clinic with specialty-trained/experienced doctors who are willing to answer your questions and discuss their evidence-based clinical care, provide options and realistic outcomes, can be an important first step. Along with offering expertise for your individual situation, their goal is to provide as much easy-to-understand information as possible so that you are well prepared and comfortable in the decisions you’ll make on the path to having a healthy baby.