Finding a trusted fertility specialist can be intimidating in the era of mass information and online social networks. Your OBGYN might present a list of specialists and tell you to pick one or they might recommend one themselves. Eitherway, just like any service, patients typically investigate through friends and online reviews (much like we do with any purchase of goods or services these days) to try and optimize “fit.” The relationship between patient and fertility physician AND his/her practice is critical.
That being said, look for the following when selecting a Fertility Practice, particularly in the United States:
- Are the physicians board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility by the American Board of OBGYN (ABOG) – this designation means that the physicians took 3 additional years of training specifically focused on fertility treatment and practice
- Does the clinic report to the Society of Assistant Reproductive Technologies (SART). By law, ALL fertility clinics in the US have to report success rates to the government (CDC), but SART member clinics are a group of clinics that subscribe to the highest standard of care. Approximately 90% of US fertility practices are SART members.
- Be careful interpreting success rates when comparing clinics. Steps have been made in recent years by SART to minimize gaming but clinics will advertise the highest success rates on their website that may only apply to certain patients. Make sure the success rates that the clinic quotes you are reflective of your test results, age and medical history.
When it comes time to see your fertility specialist, make sure any fertility testing results are readily available as this will help the provider triage any further testing and prescribe treatment. The visit usually takes 30-60 minutes. If your partner is available he/she should attend, but is not required. In the visit the provider should lay out a short term and long term plan that consists of any diagnostic testing that remains to be completed and then a 3-4 month treatment plan depending on the results of testing. The provider should set expectations about what to expect with interacting with his/her office as well as introduce you (not necessarily in person, though) to the members of his/her team that will be assisting in your care.
Fertility treatments typically go for 3-4 months before a follow up visit is scheduled. If there are any concerns the patient should feel comfortable calling the office at any time to have those questions addressed. Most physicians have a nurse coordinator and an assistant, both of whom the patients get to know very well through regular communication. Our patients have electronic access to a portal system which allows regular, secure electronic communication with the office.
As mentioned above the fertility clinic visit can be intimidating. Using your online resources and asking your OBGYN are the most common resources that people utilize when selecting a clinic. Your friends and family want to be helpful, and often are, but sometimes sharing your infertility story with them can leave one frustrated so its normal to be hesitant. Ultimately, you will make the right choice. Do not be afraid to leave a clinic and seek out a change of scenery if your experience is not what you think it should be.