Taking your first step into fertility treatment can be equally exciting and stressful. So much hope centers on this decision, and many patients arrive at their initial appointment with years of questions and anxiety built up behind them. Your first consultation with a fertility specialist is an opportunity to start looking for some answers. So what should you expect and how can you prepare? Here is everything you need to know about getting ready for your first visit.
The main goal of this first appointment is to build a road map of your fertility journey: where you’ve come from and where you are headed. During the consultation, you will meet with your doctor and nurse coordinator for an in-depth evaluation of your medical history. Once the team has a strong understanding of your case, they can begin to outline diagnostic and treatment plans. This initial visit can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.
What to bring
- Copies of medical records. Every piece of background information that you supply could be a vital piece of the puzzle, so having access to your up-to-date medical records is important. You can streamline this process by authorizing and arranging for each office to fax your records to the fertility clinic ahead of your visit.
- Your primary care physician
- Your OBGYN
- Any previous fertility evaluations or treatments
- A list of questions for your doctor. It is a very good idea to have your questions written down or printed out before you go into the visit. Your fertility team will be asking you a lot of questions, but it is just important that you ask yours. Having a list of questions at hand will ensure that you don’t forget or miss your chance to ask them. See below for a list of suggested questions to get you started.
- A notebook to write down any instructions or details. With so much ground to cover in the first visit and the possibility of intense emotions surrounding the event, “information overload” is a common experience. Taking notes during the visit can help you process and remember important details.
- Your partner, if you like. It is not necessary to bring your partner to your first visit, but they are both invited and encouraged to attend. This visit is an opportunity for your partner to be included in the process and having them there may be helpful for you and your fertility team. They can provide emotional support and will also be able to answer questions with you, offering your team extra insight into the case. They will also be able to ask questions of their own, which can help them feel supported and clear up any fears or misgivings they may have about fertility treatment.
How to prepare
Your medical records will have a lot of vital information for your fertility specialist, but they are only part of the picture. Your own recollections and facts are also very important. Take some time to write down and organize the following information ahead of your visit.
- List any medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you take.
- Don’t be afraid to get detailed here. List everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
- Include the amount of each dose and how often you take them.
- List key medical information.
- Any medical conditions that you or your partner may have.
- Previous evaluations or treatments for infertility.
- Age of first menstruation.
- Details about your cycle. Is it regular? How long is your average cycle? Is the flow especially heavy/light? Do you suffer from PMS or especially painful periods?
- List details about your attempts to get pregnant.
- How long you have been actively trying to conceive.
- Frequency of intercourse.
- If you have been keeping records of basal body temperature, results of ovulation predictor kits, or fertility charting, this can be very helpful to bring along.
- Talk to relatives about family history of infertility.
- Check with both sides of the family. Until recently, infertility struggles were often kept very private, so unless you ask directly you may not know if your relatives experienced infertility.
- Check into your infertility insurance coverage.
- Talk to your HR representative at work and directly to your insurance company about coverage options.
- If you are near an open enrollment window with your insurance, you may be able to switch to a plan with more coverage.
- Even without insurance, there are many ways to finance fertility treatment. You may want to prepare for a consultation with your clinic’s finance specialist.
During your initial consultation
What to ask your fertility specialist. This is a list of questions to ask during your first visit. Be sure to add any of your own. This one-on-one time with your specialist is an important opportunity to get answers and set your mind at ease.
- Fertility evaluation: What specific tests would you recommend to diagnose my infertility? How much do they cost? This is important information for you to bring back to your insurance company.
- Diagnosis: How long will it take to diagnose our issues? Every case is different, and your physician may not have an exact answer, but they may be able to give you some idea of the timeline.
- Based on the results of those tests, what are my treatment options?
- What is the national success rate for those treatments in terms of live births? What are this clinic’s success rates?
- What are the side effects and risks of these treatments?
- About the clinic:
- Does your clinic provide emotional counseling, or can you refer me to a counselor who deals with fertility problems?
- What role does your nursing staff play in patient treatment and contact?
- Where will the testing/procedures take place? On site or at a separate facility?
- How many patients do you see who are in my age group? How many have my fertility problem?
- What are the live-birth success rates for my age group and with my treatment options?
- How is communication handled at the clinic?
- What are the office hours and what number should I call with problems or questions?
- Is there an out-of-hours emergency line?
Tests administered. Multiple tests are a regular part of fertility treatment, allowing your team to monitor progress throughout the process. At this first consultation, the tests are to help diagnose your fertility issues, establish a baseline for future tests, and to screen out any problems that could interfere with fertility treatments. At your first visit, you are likely to encounter the following tests:
- For women:
- Ultrasound to assess ovaries
- Standard blood tests (to check for individual hormone levels) such as:
- FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)
- LH (luteinizing hormone)
- TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone)
- PRL (prolactin)
- For men:
- Sperm sample
- Infectious disease panel before IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization)
Beginning fertility treatment is a powerful decision, and this first visit is an important moment. As you move through the process, remember that you are an equal partner and participant in your treatment and you have the right to be informed and knowledgeable about every phase and stage. Arriving to your initial consultation prepared will give you a great head start and allow you to begin this journey with confidence.