Switching fertility doctors can be a frustrating experience, particularly if you do so following many unsuccessful cycles. Yet switching fertility doctors can also offer a new chance at pregnancy. So don’t be discouraged. Sometimes the right doctor is the only thing standing between you and parenthood. So if you’re getting frustrated, here’s what you need to know about making the switch.
The Patient is the Customer -- and the Customer is Always Right
You hired a fertility team for their expertise on fertility issues, of course. But reproductive medicine is about more than just science. Your infertility doctor must also be a trusted confidante -- someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing the highly personal details of your reproductive health, your sex life, and the emotional wear and tear of infertility.
So in this regard, you’re an expert on what you need even if you’re not an expert on infertility. The infertility patient is always right, because you are a customer. You deserve good service, a comfortable space to bring your concerns, and a team that is committed to cutting edge reproductive science. If you don’t feel like you’re getting that, it’s time to move on.
So how should you feel about your infertility doctor? If you don’t experience the following, it’s time to move on:
- Confidence that your provider is exploring all options, and not just pushing you toward the most expensive choice.
- A sense that your doctor is looking at the big picture.
- Comfort talking with your doctor about all issues, no matter how personal or painful.
- Ease making and canceling appointments.
- A friendly rapport with the office staff. If visits are stressful or involve fighting with administrative workers, you’re not being treated the way you deserve.
More Than Just Hormones and IVF
In the popular imagination, infertility medicine hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. It all still boils down to hormone panels, sperm counts, and in vitro fertilization (IVF). The truth is far different. Infertility medicine operates on the cutting edge of science. So if a doctor doesn’t stay up to date, he or she will soon be woefully behind -- and grossly ill-equipped to care for patients.
We now know, for example, that lifestyle matters, that certain lifestyle choices can improve the efficacy of fertility treatments, and that factors that seem unconnected to fertility -- such as weight, chronic inflammation, gum health, and infections elsewhere in the body -- can affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
A good fertility doctor explores all of these factors. Fertility medicine is often about finding a missing link, and good doctors are constantly looking for these tiny puzzle pieces. That requires a willingness to listen and learn, and a constant desire to question assumptions and re-evaluated opinions.
So what are the hallmarks of a good infertility team? Ultimately, it comes down to how much time they’re willing to spend with you, how many options they explore, and whether they’re willing to work with your values and lifestyle. A good doctor, for example, won’t pressure you into IVF if your religion says it’s wrong, and will encourage you to explore only the options with which you are comfortable.
Of course, good doctors also encourage you to question your own assumptions. So your doctor should likewise be willing to have tough conversations that clear up misconceptions and introduce you to options you might not previously have considered.
- Does your fertility doctor treat both men and women? Don’t make the mistake of assuming infertility is only a woman’s issue. Infertility affects men and women equally, and oftentimes infertile couples struggle with both male and female factors.
- Does your fertility doctor ask questions about your lifestyle? Weight, exercise, and diet matter. If you are exposed to certain chemicals at work, these might also affect fertility by altering sperm count or even mutating gamete DNA.
- Does your doctor make recommendations about how you can address your infertility risk factors? Sometimes losing weight, changing your diet, and exercising more can help.
- Has your infertility doctor explained the basics of how your cycle works. Incorrectly timed intercourse won’t result in a pregnancy—even if you’re both perfectly healthy. Many couples operate under mistaken beliefs about how to get pregnant.
- Has your doctor performed hormonal tests throughout your cycle? It’s impossible to get an accurate read on how hormones shift throughout the cycle based on a single blood test.
- Has your doctor given you a diagnosis? If not, has he or she explained why?
- Has your doctor referred you to resources that can support you on this journey? Your emotional well-being matters.
Mental Health and Infertility
Every couple struggling with infertility has heard a few too many admonitions to “relax.” The truth is that relaxing won’t make you a parent. A little anxiety does not cause infertility. It can, however, affect your overall health. The connection between mental health and infertility is more complicated than you might think, and it’s something a good doctor must take into account.
First, the good news: poor mental health alone doesn’t cause infertility. It can, however, exacerbate pre-existing issues. For instance, a person with an autoimmune disorder may experience more flare-ups during times of stress. So controlling stress can control both symptoms of the disorder and symptoms of infertility.
Your mental health also affects your fertility in a way you might not consider. People suffering from poor mental health are more likely to use unhealthy coping mechanisms -- such as drinking, smoking, or overeating. These choices can reduce your chances of getting pregnant, while eroding your overall health. Protecting your mental health, then, is vital for sustaining the motivation to keep making healthy changes.
Even if it weren’t, a fundamental reality underlies the conundrum of infertility: you’re a human being who matters. Whether you ever become a parent, whether you do so with help or without, and regardless of how much money you do or do not spend, the way your doctor manages your infertility can affect your emotional well-being for the rest of your life.
That’s no exaggeration. The urge to reproduce is fundamental to what makes us human. So struggles to get pregnant strike at the very heart of who we are. Infertility can feel traumatic. So too can insensitive fertility doctors, unsuccessful treatments, and time spent on strategies that ultimately fail. When you look back on the time spent trying to get pregnant, you shouldn’t feel sad and traumatized, no matter what the ultimate outcome is.
A fertility doctor takes your emotions and mental health seriously. He or she should connect you to resources as needed, offer strategies for dealing with the agony of the two-week wait, and always treat you like a person who matters. If you don’t feel valued or like your feelings count, it’s time to switch fertility clinics.
Why the Doctor You Choose Matters
With so many infertility clinics out there -- and with all of them boasting at least a few successes -- it’s easy to feel like one fertility clinic is as good as the next. That’s doubly true if the best fertility clinic is a long drive from your home or work, or if your insurance will only pay for consultations at a specific clinic.
The success of infertility treatment depends on the treatment or treatments used, how effectively they are used, appropriate timing, lifestyle factors, which patients a doctor treats, and much more. The CDC maintains statistics on infertility treatments to help consumers choose the right clinic. And as that data makes clear, the doctor you choose matters -- perhaps more than any single other factor. Fertility clinic success rates range from close to zero, to more than 25% of completed cycles. Wouldn’t you rather have a 1 in 4 chance than one that’s almost zero?
The right doctor will be an informed, active participant in your treatment plan. He or she will work with you to craft a customized plan that respects your values, adapts to your changing goals, and which never exceeds your budget. Are you getting that at your fertility clinic?
Finances: The Painful Truth About Infertility
Wouldn't it be nice if infertility treatments were a simple matter of connecting the right people to the right provider, and exhausting all treatment avenues until something worked? Life isn’t always fair or simple, and never is that true than in the world of reproductive medicine.
Most insurance plans will only cover infertility treatments that are directly related to your health. That means you can get coverage for STDs, infections, and some structural issues, but it’s unlikely that IVF and some tests will be covered. So much infertility treatment must be funded out of pocket.
This presents couples struggling with infertility with a hard truth: your ability to have a biological child may hinge on your financial means. Good infertility clinics take this into account. They balance the need for aggressive treatment with the financial realities a couple faces. The most effective providers find ways to get the most use of your budget. Stellar clinics also offer financing, financial counseling, and other financial resources to reduce the impact your budget has on your fertility.
Do you feel like your provider is only interested in treating rich people? Or like you’d get better care if only you could afford to pay more? The Texas Center of Reproductive Medicine values each of our clients. We believe that financial means should not determine whether a person gets to have a child. We’ll work with you to construct a personalized treatment plan that stays within your budget.
Signs it’s Time to Switch
You put a lot of trust into your infertility team. So it’s natural to be a little reluctant to switch -- particularly if you like your doctor. Some patients worry about hurting their provider’s feelings. Others worry that they’re being disloyal or unreasonable. The truth is that you are seeking treatment for one reason, and one reason only: to produce a healthy, happy child as quickly, safely, and affordably as possible. If you’re not getting the results you want, it’s high time to consider a switch.
If one or more of the following apply, consider at least meeting with a new fertility team:
- You’ve had two or more miscarriages since beginning treatment.
- Your doctor does not know why you are infertile, and treatments have not worked.
- You have not gotten pregnant after six or more cycles of treatment.
- You feel disrespected by your doctor.
- Your provider has not recommended lifestyle changes you can make to improve your fertility.
- You can’t afford treatment, and your provider has not offered you any alternatives.
- Your doctor is pushing you too hard into IVF, and has presented no other options.
- You and your partner have frequent arguments about treatment.
- You don’t understand the information your provider gives, or your provider is unwilling to spend time answering questions.
- You don’t feel like your provider cares about you.
- Your provider does not offer convenient appointments.
- Your provider’s office staff is uncaring or dismissive.
Questions to Ask Your New Infertility Team
If it’s time to switch, make sure your new infertility team is truly superior to your old team. Asking lots of questions can help you determine whether you’ve selected the right support.
Be sure to ask:
- What is your success rate? What about for people like me?
- Do you offer support groups or other forms of psychological assistance?
- Do you provide financing or financial counseling?
- What treatments do you recommend?
- What’s a reasonable time to spend on treatment?
- How much will treatment cost?
- Do you offer convenient hours?
- Do you treat both male and female factor infertility?
- What specific tests do you recommend? If I can’t afford everything, what do you recommend doing first?
- How long can I expect to wait for an appointment?
- Do you work with insurance? How successful are you at getting treatment reimbursed or covered?
If you’re ready to make a switch, switch to a clinic that cares, that never stops fighting for your dream of parenthood, and that truly knows how to produce healthy pregnancies. Give the Center of Reproductive Medicine a call today. We’re ready to help. We know the journey is hard and often painful, but we’ll walk with you to make it all a little less overwhelming.