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, but it’s like a foreign land!
When you land yourself in fertility world, it’s this confusing ball 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.
So, as someone who has been on this rodeo a few times, here are some questions I think are essential for you to get a good understanding 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 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.
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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. I’m kicking myself now because I’ve lost the spreadsheet from all my treatments with Chloe and I’d die to know how these compare!
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 because they’d told her she was too overweight for IVF 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 like this women, come to the conclusion that it was for the best. Sometimes we just need a shove in the right direction.
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 recent 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!