Scheduling your first appointment at a fertility clinic can be overwhelming—I definitely had knots in my stomach. But knowing what to expect and preparing a list of questions in advance ensures you can make an informed decision about the next steps on your family planning journey.
Here’s an overview: The initial appointment with your fertility specialist will consist of reviewing your past reproductive and overall health history, including any medications you’re taking as well as any relevant testing results and/or diagnoses. Your doctor may also initiate additional testing that will help clarify your treatment options and personalize your fertility plan.
Related: It’s time to stop calling infertility a women’s health issue
However, throughout the appointment, you may experience an overload of information, terms and acronyms that you may not be familiar with (what’s the difference between IVF and IUI?). That’s why I strongly recommend that you prepare a set of questions in advance. (I wrote mine down in the notes section on my phone because I knew I’d forget otherwise!)
As I went through my own fertility journey, I recognized the need for personalized, evidence-based support, which led to the founding of Frame Fertility. Seeking help for fertility challenges can often feel opaque and confusing, so Frame’s mission is to help provide people with the facts and 1:1 support as they navigate every stage of the process—from curiosity to treatment.
Here are 5 important questions to bring up with your doctor to help manage expectations and empower you to proceed.
5 questions to ask your fertility doctor
1. Based on my/our medical and reproductive history, what is your initial assessment?
During this initial visit, you will be asked about your medical and family health history as well as your and your partner’s (as relevant) reproductive history. Your fertility specialist will ask pointed questions about common conditions that can impact fertility such as diabetes, endometriosis, past surgeries, medications and more. Also, be sure to share your fertility goals—like how many kids you might want and when. This may impact your next steps as well as the right path for you.
Once the fertility specialist has gathered all the necessary information, they will review it and provide you with an initial assessment of what may be the root cause of your fertility challenges, recognizing that for some, this appointment may be related to elective egg or embryo freezing or other needs.
Related: 8 things to know about egg freezing, from a fertility specialist
2. Which tests or procedures do you recommend to determine a diagnosis and/or treatment plan?
The answer should be tailored based on your initial assessment and goals, but common tests or procedures can include routine blood work and screening for infectious diseases, hormone blood tests, a pelvic ultrasound, genetic screening and more. Just to set expectations, it’s important to note that a full assessment may not be possible until these tests are completed.
The specialist will also ask how you have been tracking ovulation, so it’s ideal to have a few months of data using at-home kits, tracking apps or other methods. Based on the results of some or all of these tests, your fertility doctor will outline a personalized plan including what options to consider and the likelihood of success.
Related: Here’s how to talk to your partner about sperm testing, according to a fertility expert
3. What chance of success can I expect from different treatment methods—and what are the risks and side effects of each?
This is an important question to ask as the answer varies depending on your assessment and test results. Be sure to understand the pros and cons of each path and set realistic expectations for yourself before beginning any treatment. And remember to discuss any risks and potential side effects that could cause downtime and prevent you from your daily routine.
Oftentimes it will take more than one round of treatment before you are successful, so knowing that in advance and what the timeline may look like will help you formulate a plan that works best for you.
Related: 9 essential questions to ask at your preconception checkup
4. Who is my best day-to-day contact at the clinic? What is the best way to get ongoing questions answered? Do you offer virtual visits?
While many clinics offer access to providers 24/7 across telephone, email and their online portal, every clinic operates differently so be sure to know the best way to reach them if you have questions or concerns as you are navigating through this period. If you’re like me, you may have lots of questions as you undergo fertility treatment, so having the right contact information for after-hours support will be a major stress reliever.
Related: Your guide to getting pregnant with IUI
5. What do the costs look like?
The cost of fertility treatment varies widely between clinics, providers and even states. And of course, your insurance and fertility benefit offerings through an employer, if relevant, will play a key role. It’s crucial to know how much each treatment will cost you out of pocket as it will likely inform your treatment plan, and most clinics will help you “run the numbers” to estimate your costs.
If you don’t have great insurance coverage, ask about self-pay options, which can often be cheaper than billing through insurance. Many fertility clinics do provide a financing option and payment programs, so be sure to inquire if you would be eligible.
Related: Here’s why we need an expanded definition of infertility
A note on working with a fertility specialist
In an ideal world, working with a fertility specialist should be viewed as a partnership. Be sure to take the time to meet with more than one practice before deciding on a clinic and specialist that feels the best to you. Many clinics are now doing virtual meet-and-greet appointments, too, which can be a great option as you explore various avenues. Come prepared to ask questions and take the time you need to consider what is the best course of action for you and your future family. Good luck on your journey!
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