Please tell me I’m not the only one who has visited their fertility specialist and thought ‘dang, I have zero questions for this person,’ but feel like you should be asking questions because this is SO important (and SO expensive), but it’s like a foreign land!
When you land yourself in TTC world, it’s this confusing ball of science and technology and drugs and treatments and tests, and you have NO idea what the heck is going on.
Or, once you’ve got the ball rolling, you think of some questions, but forget them all the second you walk out of their office because you’ve been bamboozled.
I’m hoping I’m not the only one here who this has happened to… right?
I’m a firm believer in trusting your medical team, but I’m also a big advocate of education and understanding what is going on so that you can make informed decisions about your health and your body, and if needed, seek a second opinion.
The thing about fertility treatments is that your body is a ticking time bomb. Yes, sometimes the wait is inevitable, and yes, there are some of us who will have to accept that being a biological parent is not in our destiny BUT this is your body and you know it like nobody else, and goddamit, this is important, so you need to know what is going on.
Asking intelligent questions, and questions that can help you screen fertility clinics will help you do just that.
So, as someone who has been on this rodeo a few times, here are some questions to ask your fertility specialist that I think are essential for you to get a good understanding of so that you can help your chances of falling pregnant and work with your fertility specialist to make it happen!
What tests do you run to try and diagnose our problem and for screening purposes?
Will they be checking your thyroid, iron levels and run an ANA test? All of these things could be easy to rectify but have a considerable impact on your fertility. Will they undertake any genetic testing? Will they test your DHEAS levels? Will your partner have a sperm test and when they do this testing, will they be checking DNA fragmentation? Will they check his zinc levels? They should be checking all of these things and more!
How often do you repeat blood tests?
If you’re at the fertility clinic for five years, things can change! In my opinion, blood tests should repeated annually at least. During the course of your cycle, they should test multiple times, especially in the lead up to ovulation. Far too many times, I’ve seen clinics test at baseline, and then leave women to guess for themselves when they’ve ovulated.
And then, post ovulation, it is SO important to test for progesterone a week out (so halfway through your Two Week Wait) to check that your levels are high enough and whether you should be supplementing with progesterone (or if your dose is high enough).
Is there anything I can do at home (lifestyle related) to improve my chances of conceiving?
To your specialist, some of these things might be second nature, but if something in your tests comes back a bit off (or even if it doesn’t), there might be something that one of you are doing that could be a no-no (like hubby sitting in sauna’s all day). If you have something that is a bit off, like hubby has a high level of DNA fragmentation, perhaps ask in that context (i.e. is there anything we can do at home to improve this?)
Not only will this give you a good understanding on their stance on natural therapies and a ‘let’s do everything we can’ approach, but you may gain some excellent advice on simple tweaks you can make.
Are there any complementary therapies you recommend?
I think this is sometimes just a good question to ask to suss them out about their thoughts and beliefs on these kind of things. Some specialists take a very scientific approach, and others take a more holistic approach. This might give you some insight though into what kind of things you’ll talk about in future appointments, or they may suggest something that you can give a try. Importantly you’ll get a real sense of whether they’re precious about you seeking a wide range of support and help (something I discuss in my book) – or open to you receiving as much help as you can get (I know I’d prefer the latter!)
Are there any supplements they recommend, or any herbs or foods they don’t recommend?
There was a certain point in my treatment when my specialist actively recommended NOT taking Chinese herbs because it would have messed with my medicines, but I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been discussing it with him.
Some Fertility Specialists can also be slightly behind in the research (and a BUNCH came out in 2018). I highly recommend educating yourself (you could join my course, Fertility Warrior in the Kitchen to get all the info you need to know about diet, and I highly recommend the book It Starts with the Egg to give you further information about what supplements you could take) but finding out where your specialist stands, asking them why they do or don’t recommend supplements or foods, can give you some really good insight and a good idea of where they stand with certain lifestyle factors.
I absolutely do NOT advocate taking a wide range of supplements because of rumours that they work, or that haven’t been shown to be beneficial for your particular condition. What may be amazing for someone with PCOS, can be terrible for someone with endometriosis, and some supplements such as royal jelly can in fact, have adverse affects for just about anyone.
Likewise, supplements are often only useful if you are deficient in something – which you won’t know if you don’t test, and sometimes too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. If you have heard about a supplement you’d like to consider, please speak with your Fertility Specialist first, and absolutely consult with your Naturopath/Acupuncturist/Nutritionist too.
Are you able to tell me the success rates of your clinic?
This is important!! While you’re there, check their accreditation too. When you get the IVF success rates, ask if patients over 35 are separated from those under 35, and whether they’re for live births, and also ask what their success rates are for IUI if they suggest that to you.
And when you get these statistics, it may be worth calling other clinics in your area and asking for their statistics, and looking carefully at how they break those figures down, and what they include/exclude. Hint: they are always looking to show the highest rate.
Are you please able to explain to me what you’re looking for along the course of the month in terms of blood tests?
Get them to explain the process to you and how your hormones work. If you understand what is happening to your body, you can better interpret (and anticipate) symptoms, and what they’re looking for in order to trigger ovulation etc.
I have a free library where I share an ebook all about fertility and infertility – it’s a great place to start. The library is valued at more than $100 AND also contains a printout of these 11 questions :-). Click here to get access to the library and join my newsletter.)
Are you able to tell me about access to counselling sessions and how that works?
There is no governing body for fertility clinics, meaning that it is an unregulated industry, but they do have a set of guidelines and recommendations, and one of those is that they should provide counselling to all patients undergoing IVF. I stand by my belief that this should be mandatory for all patients upon commencement with any procedure because when I started at a clinic, I was already a hot mess, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get (and often it’s FREE!)
Is there an opportunity for me to get a printout or email of my test results?
I seriously loved having a copy of all my test results. It’s so empowering to see exactly HOW low you are in things or what your levels were a particular month and be able to compare. I used to get a printout of all my blood test results (and they’re really easy to interpret by the way), and I’d call on the phone for my results, I always used to ask them to give me the numbers of EACH hormone they tested and logged it in a spreadsheet. It is a wonderful way to understand more about what they’re looking for and be able to compare to past cycles.
When I started trying to conceive Olivia, it was helpful to refer back to my spreadsheet from Chloe to see how this compared.
If you’re over or underweight – are there any weight restrictions on IVF?
Some clinics have restrictions on IVF, and I don’t like to get into weight debates, but some clinics do, and so I think this is pretty handy information to know! My clinic does, and they do that because not only are weight issues often a cause of infertility, but the success rates are lower too, and hot tip: IVF is expensive! I’ll always remember a letter in the testimonials of my fertility clinic that was from a lady who was overweight. She wrote that she was outraged (understandably – a number on a scale does not represent someone’s overall health) because they’d told her that her BMI was too high for IVF at their clinic and that she needed to lose weight and come back… but she did go out and lose weight. She lost a whole bunch in fact, and then wrote to the clinic that upon reflection, she was so glad because she felt so much healthier and happier now. I don’t remember the outcome – whether she fell pregnant naturally after that or if she commenced treatment, but I remember thinking that I’d probably be angry if someone told me to change my weight, but, in some circumstances, it’s the kick in the guts we need. In some circumstances, it’s cause to change clinics, but in all circumstances – it is helpful to know where they stand on this topic and how this may affect your treatment, before investing a lot of energy, time and money with your clinic.
Again, I don’t want to dive into a weight debate, but do know that when a Fertility Clinic mentions weight (although I know their bedside manner is sometimes lacking) it is often because of statistics and with the desire to achieve the best possible results, minus complications.
Is there access through the clinic to any mind body/stress relief courses?
There are some clinics that offer this #jealous. For you, it could be something your clinic offers but doesn’t actively promote, or it could be something that could nudge them in the right direction toward offering this for their patients, but there is a large body of research has shown that people who manage the stress of infertility well, and mind body courses, show a positive outcome on treatment, so something to consider! The effect of mind body programs has been shown to affect everything from implantation rates, retrieval rates and increases in success rates of up to 50%!
Does your clinic exclusively deal with patients experiencing infertility?
You would be surprised at how many clinics dabble in a bit of this and a bit of that, and I highly recommend seeing a clinic that deals mostly (or exclusively) with infertility, as opposed to one that is a gynecologist or obstetrician primarily. Aside from the fact that sitting in a waiting room surrounded by pregnant women is heartbreaking, someone who sees five patients with endometriosis per day will be much better qualified than someone who sees two endometriosis patients per month.
I hope this list has been helpful! No doubt you’re probably thinking that you’ll forget all those questions once you get into the clinic (I KNOW, that was EXACTLY me ha!) – I’ve got your back – click here to join my newsletter and get access to my Free Library of resources where I have not only this exact list in a one pager, but a free guided meditation and a bunch of other things.
And you can also catch me on Instagram here, where I share a bunch of hints, tips and inspiration.