When facing infertility, one of the first areas where you will need to practice self advocacy and strong communication is when you start meeting with a fertility specialist. Establishing these practices right from the start will set you up for success. Visiting a fertility specialist can be overwhelming and difficult, especially when you are faced with complicated and intimidating decisions such as choosing the right physician, ensuring you ask the right questions and understand the answers, and making sure your physician accepts your insurance.
However, with the right information and preparation you can empower yourself and achieve greater success with your appointments and treatment path. The most important thing you can do to ensure you make the most of your time with your doctor is to prepare. Gather all the information you will need to help make your discussion with your physician more productive, and think of questions you want to ask ahead of time.
Now is not the time to be worried that you are wasting your doctor’s time, or that the questions you have are unimportant! A strong relationship with your physician is critical to determining the right treatment plan for you, and the ultimate success of the plan. Besides, physicians actually appreciate patients who take an active approach in their health care! And by practicing being a strong self advocate in this area, it will make you a better self advocate in all other areas of life as well.
As part of their Path to Empowerment, Fertility Within Reach offers resources to help you navigate discussions with your physician. We’ve included Fertility Within Reach’s checklist below to help you prepare for your visit and guide you through the communication process with your physician. For more tips and strategies, be sure to visit their site at www.fertilitywithinreach.org
CHECKLIST FOR PLANNING FOR PHYSICIAN VISIT
Preparation is critical to help you feel confident in communicating with your physician. Please use the checklist below to prepare for visits with your doctor.
BEFORE YOUR VISIT
- Select the right physician for you
- Fertility specialists are OB/GYNs with additional training in advanced assisted reproductive therapies and are often called a reproductive endocrinologist. Identifying the right physician is an important step in your fertility journey. Use resources such as the Society for Assisted Reproductive Treatment Success rates tool (www.sart.org) to ensure you have a qualified and reputable doctor as well as to check their success rates.
- Do not be shy about asking your physician questions. They may be experts in fertility, but they do not know details about your specific situation or concerns. To best help you, they need to know your questions and make sure you understand your diagnosis and treatment. Develop a list of all of your questions before your appointment so you cover all areas that are important to you and so you don’t forget during your visit. Questions may be about tests, treatment options, timing, and future visits.
- Review your insurance policy to develop an understanding of what your medical insurance plan will cover. This information may be valuable in discussing treatment options with your physician
- For your physician to best be able to help you, it is important to provide him/her with medical information for both you and your spouse. This includes details such as your age, how long you’ve tried to conceive, history of reproductive disorders such as endometriosis, PCOS, STIs, cancer, surgery, varicocele, and any past fertility diagnosis or treatments.
DURING YOUR VISIT
- Bring your documentation (and use it!)
- You have done your homework and documented your questions and medical history. Remember to bring it to your appointment and use it. A good physician should be impressed with your preparation and be able to answer your questions or point you to other resources to help.
- In dealing with infertility, it is inevitable that you will experience emotional reactions. To support you in your discussion with your doctor you should consider bringing a third party, such as a spouse or a friend, to help you ask questions, retain information, and advocate for your treatment.
- You will hopefully learn the answers to many of your questions as well as learn about other resources you may want to use. The wealth of information can be overwhelming. To ensure you do not forget anything, write down the answers to your questions and other key information your doctor shares.
AFTER YOUR VISIT
- Continue your research
- If you did not have a positive experience or connect with your doctor, it is OK to look into a second opinion. Treating infertility is guided by science and medicine, however research suggests that it can be an art form as well. You need to be comfortable in speaking with your doctor and if you don’t, you should look to other clinics or doctors who may be a better fit for you.